Chapter 4: The Twinflower
“Well, aren’t you sweet,” came Eric Northman’s resonant voice.
I was feeling anything but sweet as he looked me up and down—and then back up again.
“I honestly don’t know,” I responded.
His eyebrow arched in question and amusement.
“I’ve never actually tasted myself,” I added nervously.
He smirked. “Did you come to Fangtasia to be tasted?”
I couldn’t help but to chuckle out of nervousness—and a little amusement of my own. Mr. C had been right. There was a certain kind of humor about Eric Northman—charming and wry. And there was more; he seemed to have a joie de vivre emanating from his very pores.
“Unfortunately, I’ve already been tasted,” I said significantly, my own smile fading at that memory.
“What a pity—for me,” he commented.
“Trust me; the pity is all mine,” I returned.
“Oh?” he asked, leaning forward a little.
I nodded. “Can we speak somewhere private?” I asked.
He looked a little surprised, but still nodded in agreement.
“Do you mind if I bring a friend?” I asked.
His eyebrow shot up again. “Is she anything like you?”
I chuckled. “Not even close. He’s waiting by the back door,” I added in barely a whisper.
“Are you trying to entrap me?” Eric asked somewhat playfully.
“Yes. I think I am,” I said honestly.
She had my full attention from the moment she walked into Fangtasia.
She was wearing a dress that had no business being in a vampire bar. And she walked straight toward me from the door—as if I were her beacon.
Her scent was unlike any other human’s that I’d ever encountered, and from the looks of every other vampire in the room, it was the same for them.
But how could that be? She smelled like a field full of linnea, the twinflower, which had grown wild near my home—my human home. I closed my eyes for a second and recalled with complete clarity the moment I awoke as a vampire. The first scent that had hit me was linnea—so much more aromatic and poignant than I’d been able to discern with my human senses.
That scent—her scent—was engulfing me now, even more than it had then.
In addition to her scent, there seemed to be a “light” about her—almost a glow. Her skin was darkened ivory as if she’d lain in the sun all day. My fangs clicked down.
I don’t think I would have been able to stop myself from speaking to her—from smiling at her—even if I would have tried.
My cock was hard by the time she walked across Fangtasia—to me—and harder by the end of our short conversation.
But, strangely enough, my first instinct wasn’t to fuck her or to feed from her.
My first instinct was to claim her and to keep her. And that instinct came from somewhere deep inside of me that had never been stirred—not even when I made Pam. I intended to call Godric about it the first chance I got. It would give me a good excuse to reach out to him anyway.
After she requested to meet with me privately, I led the woman through the employees’ only door and down the hall toward the back entrance of the club. Actually, that wasn’t quite accurate. I didn’t lead her. She walked next to me for the most part, looking up at me as I looked down at her because of our height difference.
And when she stopped walking, I stopped too. It turns out that she was sizing me up—quite literally.
“I thought people—even Vikings—were shorter a thousand years ago,” she commented with a half-smirk, half-smile.
I chuckled. For some reason, I wasn’t surprised that she knew things about my origins. However, of all the things I thought she might say to me, that hadn’t been one of them.
“You’re right—at least partially. In fact, there are many stereotypes about Vikings; supposedly we were all tall, blonde, brutish marauders, wearing horned helmets and always pillaging—in one form or another,” I added flirtatiously.
“And those stereotypes are wrong?” she asked with twinkling eyes and a rosy blush on her cheeks.
“Well—one of them is.” I paused dramatically. “The people of the North were not especially tall. Around 5’8″ was the average height among the men of my geographic region when I was a human.”
“So you stood out even then?” she asked coyly.
“Not so much—I’m afraid,” I grinned. “All of the men in my family were tall. My father was my height—but broader, as was my uncle. For many generations, my male progenitors had sought taller women to marry.”
“And you? Did you marry a tall woman?” she laughed.
I couldn’t help but to laugh with her. There was something about her that seemed to ‘lift’ me—for lack of a better word.
“The woman I married was a few inches shorter than you are; she was an average height for women of my time.” I smirked. “My father would have been disappointed in my choice.”
Her smile faded. “Would have been?”
“He died before I married,” I responded. Why I was telling her such information was beyond me; a sudden thought struck me.
“Are you a witch?” I asked her.
“No—a waitress,” she responded as she gestured toward the back door.
I may have already been somewhat besotted by the beautiful girl that seemed to be tugging at my very soul, but I was still a thousand-year-old warrior, and I used my vampiric senses to tell me what was beyond the door.
“A demon?” I asked when I picked up the faint scent of brimstone.
“Mr. Cataliades—the queen’s lawyer,” I remarked when the scent registered in my memories. The demon had obviously used magic to cover his scent to a certain extent, but I could tell who it was all the same.
“My lawyer too,” the girl said.
I wanted to ask her what her name was, but I decided to save that question and the many others I had for when we were in the soundproof confines of my office. To make that happen as quickly as possible, I opened the door.
The rotund semi-demon nodded first to the girl and then to me. Then he followed both of us to my office. Once I closed the door, I gestured toward the two chairs in front of my desk.
“Refreshments?” I asked them.
Both of my guests shook their heads, but the girl looked up at me and said, “No thanks. Maybe later?”
I winked and then took my seat behind my large desk.
“What’s your name?” I asked, no longer able to hold in my desire for that piece of information.
“Sorry,” she said. “I would have told you out there, but . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“You did not do a good job of being discreet other than that,” I chuckled. “Your scent is quite captivating; it’s like . . . .” It was my turn to stop midsentence.
“Her scent needed to be amplified tonight—in order to entice you,” the demon said, “and to cover the presence of another’s blood.”
I leaned forward, choosing—for the moment—to deal with only the first part of the lawyer’s statement. “Amplified? Not changed?”
“Why?” Mr. Cataliades asked. “What does she smell like to you?”
The girl looked at me with curiosity in her eyes.
“Like time stopped and then rewound a thousand years. Like home,” I responded honestly.
The girl smiled almost shyly and stretched out her hand across the desk. “I’m Sookie. Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Vampires don’t shake hands,” I said, even though I’d already taken her hand into mine. Her touch elicited a tingling sensation in my fingers that traveled through my body as if it were hell-bent on restarting my unmoving heart.
“Clearly,” Sookie responded with a smirk as she squeezed my hand a little. Her expression turned to a frown, however, as she turned her hand over so that her palm was up.
“Take a whiff,” she instructed.
I bent forward and inhaled deeply, expecting more of the ambrosia from before. Sadly, Sookie’s beautiful sent was tainted by another. I sat up straight again, and, though I loosened my grip, I didn’t let go of her hand.
“I recognize this scent,” I said, trying to keep my voice neutral.
“You know Bill Compton?” she asked.
I nodded. “Regrettably. I believe he is the queen’s procurer—or errand boy.”
Her eyebrow shot up in amusement. “Well—I’d like to make him her whipping boy if I can.”
Seemingly reluctantly, she pulled her hand from mine. Something about the hesitancy of her action tugged at the corners of my lips, even more than her sharp words against Compton had.
She settled back comfortably into her chair.
“So—why have you had Compton’s blood?”
Sookie looked at Mr. Cataliades and then back at me. “Because the queen sent him to procure me for her.” Her tone clearly reflected her anger. “Instead of just asking me if I would use my telepathy to aid her and offering me a contract—like a fucking grown-up—she decided that it would be better to have her minion arrange for me to be beaten up and then seduce me by using his blood.” She shook her head. “Bill manipulated me into taking his blood, and then he took mine.”
My eyebrow rose. “I’ve known a few telepaths, and all have been fairies or demons.”
“I’m one-eighth fairy,” she said.
For some reason, I wasn’t surprised by her candor—probably because my own instincts called for me to be open with her as well.
“Can you hear my thoughts?” I asked. “My maker once told me that some strong fairies can occasionally pick up on vampire thoughts.”
“I haven’t heard a vampire’s thoughts yet, but I haven’t tried very hard either,” she reported.
“Try,” I told her, sitting forward a little, “with me.”
She closed her eyes, and a look of intense concentration came over her face.
“You’ve got three underage kids sitting at your bar—all girls and all dressed in black. One of them has blue hair. There’s also an undercover cop here—just looking for a reason to signal for a raid. He was told by his vampire-hating, Fellowship of the Sun-member boss to invent a reason if he didn’t find a legitimate crime happening here by 1:00 a.m. He’s wearing a tattered Shreveport-Bossier Captains baseball cap and a studded collar.”
She shook her head. “Weird combination,” she commented.
She went on. “Almost all of the humans in your bar are thinking about having sex with vampires—but you are the one they’re fantasizing about the most. The majority of them are trying to figure out how to best approach you when you return to your throne; a few of them have more,” she paused, “arrogant thoughts.”
“Yes—they feel superior to the others because you’ve—uh—had them before. They are certain that you will want a repeat encounter with them.”
Sookie took a deep breath even as her face flushed a beautiful shade of red, which enthralled me even more than her fascinating report of the thoughts she was hearing.
She continued, “There are a couple of Weres in the bar; one of them just turned 21 today. I used to not get as much from Weres, but my boss is a shifter, so I’ve had the chance to practice. I have to concentrate a little more with them, however.”
“What are the Weres thinking?” I asked.
“They’re here on a dare from an older member of their pack. The birthday boy wants to stay out of trouble, but his friend is trying to figure out a good pickup line to use with Pam. He’s stuck between ‘Don’t worry; I won’t impale you…with a stake’ and ‘Is there room for two in your coffin?'”
I chuckled. “I haven’t heard those before.”
“He got them off of a website.” She took another deep breath. “I sense eleven voids out there. Those are the vampires. I pick y’all up as a little pocket of silence.”
“You cannot hear them?” I asked.
“No—none of them.”
“Must be nice,” I commented, “to have that relief.”
“I was naïve enough to think so until not hearing Bill put me into a situation where he got his blood into me,” she said, her eyes opening.
She was giving me a funny look.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Snakes. When I really tried to listen to your mind, it was as if I was in a den of snakes. A lot of impressions all at once, gliding through your mind like snakes.”
“What am I thinking?” I asked.
“You’re thinking too many things—all at once—for me to get a handle on a particular thought,” she responded. “There’s too much there; it’s like I’m looking into a huge snake pit from above, and I can see all the movement, but I can’t make out an individual snake.”
I closed my eyes and focused my thoughts. I let fade the attention I’d been giving to my businesses, my sheriff duties, Godric, and a variety of other things that had been skimming around the ocean of my mind. I fixed my thoughts onto only the woman in front of me.
“I can hear you,” she whispered, even as she took my hand in hers, probably so that she could amplify her reception. “You want me for yourself, but you hate the idea of anyone owning me. You want to bite me and take my blood, but you don’t want to hurt me. You want to remove every cell of Bill’s blood from my body and then put your own in its place, but you don’t want to control me. You want to have sex with me, but you can tell I’m a virgin, and you fear you might hurt me. You want to mark me over and over again, but you don’t want to blemish my skin. You want to chain me up in a room in order to keep me all to yourself . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
I relaxed and let my thoughts swirl around freely once more. I opened my eyes to find that she was opening hers. I studied her in silence for a few moments; unafraid, she studied me right back. She kept ahold of my hand.
“You are right,” I said, finally breaking the silence. “I want you—badly; I’ve wanted you from the second you walked into my bar. And I would contemplate chaining you to my side; however, I would never do that. Do you want to guess why? Or can you hear it from my thoughts.”
She closed her eyes, but reopened them after only a few seconds. “I can’t hear anything clearly anymore, and I don’t want to guess.” She squeezed my hand. “I want you to tell me,” she ordered somewhat brazenly.
“I would not desire to break the woman I see before me—not for the world,” I responded, my tone sounding more passionate and raw than I’d heard it in a while—maybe a century or two. Or maybe longer. Maybe ever.
She smiled a little. “That’s good to hear.”
“I am greatly drawn to you: your scent, your body, your blood, your virginity, your conversation, your wit,” I said. “I want all of those things—only for myself.”
“You’re a selfish being?” she asked, as she slipped her fingers from mine and sat back again.
I nodded. “Very. Tell me—are you a nun?”
She chuckled at the question and shook her head. “No.”
“Then—if you don’t mind my asking—how is it that you are still a virgin. You are what? Twenty-four? Twenty-five?”
“Twenty-five,” Sookie said with a blush, even as Mr. Cataliades continued to simply look into space—not really focusing on anything, except, perhaps, the advertisement for TrueBlood that was behind my desk—just as he’d been doing for the past ten minutes.
I posited that he was currently fulfilling the role of “ornamental chaperone” as Sookie and I got acquainted. In fact, I had the distinct impression that I was being interviewed by Sookie.
“It is odd that you are still a virgin, given the fact that a vampire has claimed you,” I commented.
She sneered. “Bill has tried to take enough from me already—including my self-determination and choices. Luckily, I didn’t give him anything other than a couple of hours of misguided affection before Mr. C helped me to understand what Bill’s blood was trying to do to corrupt my feelings.”
I smiled a little. “It is good to have allies who will tell us the truth when we cannot see it on our own.”
“Do you have people like that?” she asked.
I nodded. “A few.”
She smiled. “I’m glad.”
“So,” I said, somewhat playfully, “if you are not planning to become a nun, how is it that you are untouched? You are too beautiful not to have been sought after, Sookie Stackhouse.”
She blushed, so I pushed her a little. “Tell me—are you the kind of girl who wishes to wait until marriage before having intercourse?”
“Did you wait until your wedding—to the short girl?” she asked teasingly.
“No,” I chuckled. “I had no patience—then.”
She bit her lip. “But you’ve learned how to be—patient?”
My cock reacted to her flirting as well as that little bite to her lip. “In some things,” I chuckled.
Sookie smiled at me. “To answer your question, I’m neither a nun nor a saint.” She winked. “In fact, you should see the calendar I’ve been lusting over since January.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“Did they airbrush them? Your abs.”
“Wanna see for yourself?” I challenged.
“Maybe later,” she giggled. “Nice sheet, by the way,” she continued teasing. “Egyptian cotton?”
“Eight hundred thread count,” I chuckled.
“Not satin? Or silk?” she asked.
“Did you pick the color?”
“They say white makes things look bigger.”
“Do you need help,” she asked with another bite to her lips, “looking bigger?”
“Not right now,” I answered innocently. “Wanna see for yourself?”
“Maybe later.” She laughed and then took a deep breath before deciding to satisfy my curiosity. “To answer your question—I’m still a virgin because I haven’t found someone I want to have sex with,” she said honestly, though her slight blush was back. She bit her lip again. “I can keep out the thoughts of humans if I want to, but that takes a lot of effort if there’s touching involved.”
“And you never found someone worth that effort?”
She shook her head. “No. To be honest—before any of my past dating relationships could move to more intimate levels, I’ve always heard something from my dates’ heads that gave me pause.”
“Like a den of snakes in a brain? Or thoughts about enslavement, marking, draining, etc.?”
She smirked. “No—much worse,” she said with mock seriousness.
“Yes—it’s truly disturbing what some guys think about when they’re on dates with me.”
I leaned forward in my seat a little. I felt my eyebrow arching in question. “Do tell.”
“Well—often—a guy will wish that he was with someone else—even as he works really hard to make me think that he wants to be only with me. Truthfully,” she said, lowering her voice conspiratorially, “I sometimes get the feeling that a guy doesn’t care about me at all—that he only wants to get into my pants.”
“No!” I said with mock surprise.
“Oh yes,” she replied impishly. “Or sometimes a guy will wish I could be different in some major way.”
“Bigger boobs?” I asked with a smirk.
“Usually fewer thoughts,” she returned sarcastically.
“Or,” she continued, “a guy might be trying to hide something—but I always hear all about it.”
“What would guys these days be trying to hide? Thoughts of torture? Plans of how to hide the carcasses of rivals?”
She laughed. “Nothing so gallant. No—they will try to hide a secret girlfriend, an addiction to chewing tobacco, a strange fetish for pens that have run out of ink.”
“Pens that have run out of ink?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“You don’t want to know,” she said flatly.
“I think I do,” I chuckled.
“You don’t. Trust me,” she said more forcefully.
I leaned back in my chair. “I think I will trust you—on this matter.”
We were silent for a moment, sizing each other up once again. I was enjoying the encounter more than I should have based on how little I knew about her—and based upon the fact that there was a demon lawyer in the room who had yet to indicate his major role in the evening’s agenda.
Not to mention the fact that she’d been claimed by another.
“I agree with you,” I finally said.
“Bill Compton. You are definitely too good for him. But I don’t see what I can do about him. Unfortunately, staking vampires I find annoying isn’t legal. Moreover, Bill is a resident of New Orleans, and Area 1 is not in my purview—even if it does contain beauty beyond compare,” I added, looking at her pointedly.
She blushed again. “Then it is a good thing I’m not a resident of Area 1. I am from Bon Temps, Mr. Northman.”
I smiled. “My area. And, please, call me Eric.”
She smiled back. “Okay, Eric. I also have other news for you. About a month ago, old Jessie Compton passed away in Bon Temps, and his property was taken over by his only living relative.”
“Bill Compton,” I sneered.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Am I to take it that Mr. Compton has not checked in with you?” Mr. Cataliades asked, popping into the conversation as if he’d always been a part of it.
“He has not,” I responded, wondering if Sookie could see the vicious glee in my eyes. I hadn’t had the opportunity to torture a weasel in a long time.
“How long do new vampire residents or visitors have before they must check in with you?” the demon asked.
“They are to check in on their first full night in my area and send paperwork preceding their arrival if they wish to settle here,” I informed.
“And Mr. Compton has not?” Cataliades asked with mock surprise.
“No. It must have slipped his mind,” I answered.
“Too much other stuff to do,” Sookie said bitterly.
“Can his oversight earn Mr. Compton a little silver treatment?” Sookie asked.
“Blood thirsty, min lilla ormtjusare?” I asked, not quite able to catch myself before saying the odd endearment.
She smiled a little, even as her eyebrow rose in silent questioning at what I’d said. She didn’t ask—at least not for the moment.
“It’s only fair that I want a little of Bill’s blood to be spilled, considering what he did to me,” she commented.
“Then consider it done,” I said, pulling out my phone and texting Pam.
“Sadly—and I do mean sadly—I cannot torture him and keep him in silver indefinitely,” I said after hitting the send button. “And—even more regrettably—Compton’s blood inside of you indicates that he’s made a claim on you.”
“But he has poached in your area,” the demon lawyer reminded.
“Yes, but he was sent by the queen. It is unwise of Sophie-Anne to alienate me, but the only recourse I have at this time is to file a grievance, and that will not help you. The queen will be required to pay me a fine,” I paused and observed Sookie closely, “based on your perceived worth.”
She took a deep breath, and I could see fear and anger battling in her eyes; the anger won and then was met with resolution. I smiled a little. Sookie was a warrior at heart.
It was even more of a pity—for the both of us—that she was tied to such an unworthy asshole.
Sookie took another deep breath and glanced at the demon lawyer before looking back at me.
“Then I have a proposal for you,” she said.
A/N: Thanks for all the comments about the last chapter! I’m so glad that you are enjoying this story. I hope that Eric didn’t disappoint. Given the way he looked at and flirted with Sookie when they first met, I always figured that he’d felt “limited” by Bill’s presence and Sookie’s reticence to give him a chance to be anything other than what Bill had said he was. I figured that—if given a “real” shot—Eric and Sookie would have quite a spark when they met.
I always thought they had quite a bit in common and would talk pretty “easily” if free of their misconceptions.
Thanks so much for reading!
Until next time,
FYI: min lilla ormtjusare is the closest I can get to “my little snake charmer” in Swedish.