When Eric woke up again, he was greeted by Sookie’s body next to his. She was sleeping, and her steady exhalations were falling softly against his bare chest. Eric pulled her body closer to his and buried his nose into her hair. “You’ll never be close enough,” he murmured, his voice barely audible. She nuzzled into his chest more fully and settled into him, still sleeping peacefully.
Eric inhaled deeply; Sookie smelled of lavender and sunshine. He smiled. His beautiful lover had obviously sat out in the sun―probably with him in mind―at some point after he’d returned to his slumber. He would miss the strength of this scent on her once the winter prevented her from being comfortable outside. In addition, she’d have fewer days in the sun now that she was going back to work for the shifter.
However, Eric was an intelligent man, and as such, he knew that he could not interfere with Sookie’s personal needs, which included her desire to work. He’d been lucky to know many powerful women in his long life―his human mother, the A.P., Isabel, and Pam, being the chief among them. From them he’d learned―sometimes the hard way―that women were powerful and tenacious, and trying to control one was like trying to control the sea. He knew that Sookie wouldn’t react well if he insisted that she quit or if he tried to pay for everything even after they were married. Her independent nature had started to shine again, and―more than anything else―Eric was happy that the blood severing spell had raised Sookie’s confidence in herself. Though he wouldn’t have thought it would be possible, she’d become even more attractive to him since she’d taken back complete ownership of her life, and Eric would do nothing to squelch that, despite the fact that his inner Viking―actually more like inner caveman―wanted to care for her every need and give her every material thing that her heart could ever desire.
In the past, Eric had been troubled by Sookie’s lack of thinking things through before jumping into a situation, especially where Compton was concerned. By contrast, he’d been witness to her using her head where he himself had been concerned, and he had always admired her cleverness as well as her bravery in questioning him. The only exception to that had been when he’d tricked her into taking his blood in Dallas, but she’d reacted in the moment to save Eric’s life. Generally in their interactions with each other, he’d found her to be both courageous and shrewd.
It was clever Sookie that negotiated with him about the humans she used her telepathy on. It was clever Sookie that later arranged for Lafayette’s release, Bill’s presence, and a wad of money in exchange for the Dallas trip. It was clever Sookie that had come up with the plan to infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun and find Godric, a plan that would have been flawless if Hugo hadn’t been the betrayer. It was clever Sookie that had sought him out after Bill’s kidnapping, first as a suspect and then as an aid in finding Compton. It was clever Sookie who listened to her intuition and pursued the truth regarding Compton. It was clever Sookie who did not taste the light fruit in the fairy realm. And it was clever Sookie who broke the blood tie and the blood bond because she knew deep down that she wasn’t the kind of girl to be in love with two men at the same time. He laughed to himself, “And it was definitely clever Sookie that picked me.”
After the blood severing spell, her cleverness was on even more display as it coupled with her self-confidence and her knowledge of people’s inner workings. She also seemed more ready to use her telepathy as a practical aid, something that Eric was extremely happy about.
No―it had been where Compton was directly concerned that she had seemed to falter and not use her common sense and innate cunning. Whereas she had questioned Eric and his motives from day one―as she should have―she’d never questioned Bill in the same way as far as Eric had seen. Bill had been duplicitous from the beginning of their relationship, yet Sookie had been oblivious to that and seemed willing to take him back again and again. She’d taken him back after she experienced firsthand his association with Malcolm and the other deviant vampires, she’d taken him back after the Jessica debacle, and she’d accepted him without question following the Maenad attack even though they’d had valid disagreements before that.
She’d even accepted him back into her life after he’d been with Lorena. Certainly, as a vampire, Eric knew that a child could not refuse his or her maker unless he or she had been released. But Bill had been released by Lorena, yet he had slept with her at Russell’s. Eric’s nose had sniffed that one out upon seeing Bill there.
Even more so, she’d accepted him back after he almost killed her in the back of that van, something that Eric had not known about at the time. If he had, he would have killed Compton, consequences be damned. She’d been ready to take Bill back right after Russell’s entombment and may have if Eric hadn’t shown up covered in cement and forced Compton to admit the truth. And then as soon as Bill got fresh blood into her, she was ready to love him again. Eric had recognized that the only explanation for any of these things on Sookie’s part was the influence of Bill’s blood, which had taken Sookie’s original curiosity and attraction for Compton―as well as her innate desire to care for others―and had twisted those pure, unselfish, and distinctively Sookie qualities into something that Bill had manipulated. For that alone, he wished to kill Bill.
But he couldn’t―not just because of Sookie, but because he recognized that at one point in his life, he may have done the same thing to her. Looking down at the woman beside him and imagining her tied to him because of manipulation and not love was a thought that now repulsed Eric.
He was comforted slightly by the fact that he seemed to have been following instincts that were even more innate than his vampire instincts from the start with Sookie. That first night at Fangtasia, he’d wanted to take her―badly. Her scent alone―then virginal―had literally enthralled him. He’d kept his seat on the throne and waited to summon her with extreme difficulty, and then when she’d shown him that she was a spitfire, he almost was unable to control his desire to kill Compton and lock Sookie up into his dungeon. But he’d put aside both of those vampire instincts, at least in part because he had been immediately drawn to the passion and fire within her. He knew her value as a telepath, certainly, but he also recognized her spirit.
He’d seen that spirit before―in the fucking mirror. Godric asked him when he was in his last moments of human life whether he’d dwell on earth as his companion. In the face of the monster before him and near death, Eric had been defiant to the end, yet when Godric had offered one thing―life―Eric had taken the offer and risen a vampire. Much later when Eric had asked why Godric had chosen to turn him―him and no one else for two millennia―Godric had said it was because of the defiance and fire in him.
Eric inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, allowing Sookie’s scent to travel throughout his body and infuse his blood. He smiled. She was even more defiant and spirited than he’d been as a human. She was not his equal in her thirst for life; she was his superior because she managed to have spirit and zest while at the same time being both kind and genuinely unselfish. Eric had never managed the kind and unselfish part; only now―with Sookie―was he even willing to try.
At their second meeting at Fangtasia, when she’d managed to get him to agree to turn over guilty humans to the human authorities, he should have known immediately that he was lost to her. The shock he felt from Pam over his relenting to Sookie’s demand was palpable. He should have been clued in that he’d fallen head over heels for the telepath because he was not shocked that he’d relented. That compromise with Sookie had seemed natural to make. And he was a vampire who did not compromise often. Moreover, he’d agreed to her terms for Dallas after she’d slapped him. Looking back, he recognized that he never had wanted her manipulated and placid as Bill wanted, and that thought alone gave him some comfort that he might deserve her after all.
He was now ashamed that he had allowed his vampire instincts to take over when he tricked Sookie in Dallas, but even that ploy had back-fired. Eric had been lucky―damned lucky―that the tie didn’t work as he’d wanted. He was lucky that the conscious, selfish thoughts that he wanted to rule him were outmanned by his unconscious motivations and love for Sookie. He’d never believed the adage that it was better to be lucky than good until that moment.
He was self-aware enough to know that a creature like him didn’t deserve the angel in his arms, but he was damned sure going to try.
And he was sure about another thing too―Compton was never―never―going to get his blood into his bonded again. “If he tries, he will meet my sword, min kván,” he swore to the still sleeping woman beside him―his woman.