At about 7:00, Sookie stood in front of the mirror in her new bedroom and took in her appearance. She’d chosen dark blue jeans that were just as much about comfort as they were about curves and another long-sleeved T-shirt, this one in red. She thought it set off her tan well and she knew that Eric liked red, but other than that, she’d not really tried to dress herself up. She had on a little mascara and a little lip gloss, the only items she’d worn for Bill as well.
However, instead of putting on perfume as she had the night before, she’d decided to let the sunlight do the talking, so to speak. She pulled on a pair of socks and her trusty tennis shoes. Then, she put her hair into a comfortable messy bun just as she’d done the night before. She took a deep breath, knowing the next several hours would determine the rest of her life in so many ways. “Don’t fuck it up, Northman,” she said one last time as she opened the little drawer and looked at the pendant and silver again.
She glanced over her list one more time and set her little notebook on the coffee table. She grabbed the two now flowerless vases, rinsed them out, dried them, and put them away. She thought about how Eric must have bought them since there were definitely no surviving vases after the Maryann situation.
She set the table, similar to how she’d done it the night before. She put a blood next to the microwave and stirred the soup, enjoying the smell of it wafting through the room. Most of all, she tried to keep her nerves in check.
At precisely 7:59, there was a knock at the door.
Sookie opened it and saw Eric shifting nervously on the porch, his back to her. He spoke low, and she could barely hear him, “All the way over here, I’ve been telling myself that I’d better not fu―I mean muck―this up, and now that I’m here, I find myself,” he paused, “pensive.”
“Sounds oddly familiar,” Sookie muttered as Eric turned around. He looked at her from head to toe, a large grin spreading onto his face as he did.
“Did you spy on me?” she asked indignantly, placing her hands on her hips as she took in his appearance. He was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans in the same shade as hers, though his were most definitely not bought at Target like hers had been. His T-shirt was also a similar shade to her own; moreover, it was a V-neck, just like hers. He wore black boots with his signature leather jacket.
Eric laughed, “I swear, I did not. However, now that I think of it, I could have just checked the footage from the camera I installed in your bedroom.” Eric’s eyes twinkled in mirth waiting for Sookie to take the bait. He didn’t have to wait long.
“You didn’t!” she screeched.
After a dramatic pause, Eric looked saddened, “No, I’m afraid you returned before that part of my dastardly plan came to fruition.”
As she sighed in relief, he smiled sincerely at her. “You do look lovely in red, Sookie.” He handed her a bunch of yellow flowers of all different varieties. “Is it in there?” he asked playfully.
Knowing that he was asking if her favorite flower was in the bouquet, she shook her head.
He shrugged, “Oh well, process of elimination.”
She smiled and turned on her heel, heading inside.
He followed her in without needing an invitation. “You always were particularly clever, Sookie,” he said as he closed the door. “Did you rescind his yet?”
Sookie turned around again, “Of course,” she smiled. “I did it right after he left last night.”
“And when did I get mine?”
“At the same time he did.”
“Savvy, savvy Sookie,” he said following her to the dining room. He leaned comfortably against the door frame as she got her favorite of the two vases out from its spot. She put the flowers in the vase, added some water, and then handed the arrangement to Eric, who looked around before taking the flowers to the coffee table in the living room.
Sookie popped his blood into the microwave and filled a soup bowl for herself after turning off the burner. The soup smelled heavenly. “I gave the daisies to Gran,” she said as he sat down unbidden at the place she’d obviously set for him. “I take it the other one was from you―the one you took from my arrangement the other day?” She peeked at him from the kitchen.
“Of course, min kära, I always find that it is important to ingratiate myself to the family,” he said with a wink.
Sookie laughed. “Gran would have liked that,” she said as she brought the bowl in with a potholder since it was very hot to the touch. By the time she had put it down and turned around, Eric was pulling the TruBlood out the microwave and giving it a shake. Sookie had a seat as Eric poured his blood into the goblet and grabbed Sookie’s potholder, taking both it and the empty bottle to the kitchen. He was halfway back before he turned around as if remembering something important.
“Pam gave me a message for you,” he said from the kitchen as he rinsed the bottle and threw it into the recycling bin just as she’d asked him to do the last night he’d stayed with her.
“What was that?” she asked as he took his seat opposite her.
“She told me to tell you that she feels in need of a ladies’ night―or at least a shopping spree using my credit card―in order to make up for the year you were gone when she had to, and I quote, ‘Put up with all my whininess’.”
“Well I could use more clothes,” Sookie said as she dug in. “I was lookin’ at my post-Maenad wardrobe today, and it’s pretty paltry.”
Eric took a drink of his blood, sitting easily into the back of his chair and stretching out a bit. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Mmmmm. Turnips, carrots, rutabagas, okra, potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, parsnips, green beans, jasmine rice, beef, pepper―a lot of pepper―salt, oregano, and is that a pinch of cinnamon?”
“Yes,” Sookie said amazed at his nose, “but you forgot one.”
“No,” he said playfully. “I’m just choosing to ignore the fact that you put garlic in your soup when you knew you were having a vampire guest.”
“But it’s so much better with garlic, and I halved the amount in the recipe,” Sookie said teasingly.
“Are vampires really allergic to garlic?”
“Most,” Eric said, “but I have found that I do not share that particular problem. It’s not really an allergy anyway. It just makes the blood taste odd to most; it is irritating more than anything else, according to Pam. However, since my sense of smell has always been so strong, I have learned to become accustomed to things like garlic, which can linger in the blood for many days, actually.
Sookie took a deep breath, “Does it bother you to be around me―when I eat?”
Eric shook his head, “I admit that I am not fond of the smell of what you humans call fast food. The scent of the overused cooking oil is bothersome. But I quite like the smell of some human food, especially things like your soup, which reminds me of my childhood days when my mother used to make such concoctions. Of course, she used different herbs, but many of the vegetables were the same. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, it’s just Bill. He doesn’t like to be around human food at all. I believe my casserole last night almost made him choke on his TruBlood.”
Eric laughed. “Well Bill is quite young; perhaps he is simply not used to it. I will have to ask Pam if it irritates her. But I’ve never had that problem. In fact, I have always enjoyed smelling the different ingredients in foods, as long as everything is fresh. Rotten food, I’m afraid, is very unpleasant to me.”
“What are your favorite foods to smell?” Sookie asked, her bowl almost halfway empty already.
“Peaches,” Eric said without hesitation. “I have peach trees put into the yards at most of my homes just so that I can smell them ripening.”
“Mmm, I love peaches too,” Sookie smiled.
“Good,” Eric returned, “because the gardener for the house is going to put some in when the season is right. I thought that in the back yard beyond the clothesline might be a good spot, but now that you are back, you will, of course, be making the decisions about that.”
Sookie shook her head and spoke evenly, her voice full of mirth, “You are a high-handed and frustratin’ vampire. What if I don’t want peach trees? What if I don’t want a gardener?”
Eric looked a bit taken aback and then mirrored her tone, “You are a stubborn and frustrating human, and an even more stubborn and frustrating fairy. And, of course, you’d want peach trees! You just said that you love them.”
Sookie feigned a look of frustration, “There you go―usin’ my own words against me.”
They laughed for a moment and then settled into silence as Sookie finished. “Do you want more?” Eric asked getting up. “I could get it without the potholder.”
“But you’d burn yourself.”
“Not really. It wouldn’t be bad enough even to hurt.”
“Fine, I’ll take half a bowl, but use the potholder.”
“Frustrating woman,” Eric muttered as he went into the kitchen.
Sookie was pleased to see that he returned carrying the bowl with the potholder though.
He settled back into his chair.
“What other foods do you like to smell?”
“I like the smell of honey very much,” he said quietly looking at her. “I like the sweetness of it.”
“I smell like honey to you,” she said just as quietly.
“Yes―I wonder sometimes if that part is my imagination turning you into the perfect woman for me.”
A slow smile spread on Sookie’s face. “What else?”
“I like blackberries; they remind me of home, actually. And I like the smell of fresh kale.”
“That’s like a heavier version of lettuce, right?”
Eric nodded and then looked at her intensely. “None of these smells comes close to the way you smell tonight, min kära. I know you don’t like the thought of everyone smelling you all the time, but I’m finding it difficult not to bury my nose into your hair. You smell exquisite.”
“I lay out in the sun today. I took a shower before I went out so I wouldn’t wash off part of the smell.”
“You did this for me?” Eric asked, his voice heavy with emotion.
“Yes, I thought you’d like it.”
“I do―very much. May I?”
Sookie nodded as Eric rose and walked slowly over to her side of the table. He bent so that he was on his knees, and she shifted in her chair so that she was facing him. They looked at each other for a long moment as Sookie reached back to pull her hair out of the bun, shaking it gently around her head. Eric’s eyes dilated just a bit as he took unnecessary inhalations. Very slowly he raise himself up and moved his face so that his nose was touching her neck lightly; he smoothly gathered some of her loosened hair into his hands, bringing that to his nose as well, and then he breathed in long and slow.
Sookie felt her pulse racing and goose bumps rising as Eric leaned into her body. She’d shared many physical pleasures―most of them with the man on his knees before her―but for erotic moments, this one ranked right at the top of the list. She held her breath as Eric pulled away and looked her in the eyes, his intensity having grown even more.
His voice was low and full of reverence. “This is a beautiful gift you have given me, Sookie. Thank you.”
Eric rose and returned to his seat looking at Sookie no less intensely. After a few moments, he said, “Sookie, I don’t want to fuck this up.”
“Then don’t fuck it up, Northman.”