Eric opened the door of the cabin and turned on the lights to reveal a modest-sized living room. He closed and secured the door behind them and then turned to Sookie. “You can explore while I make a fire―if you want to.”
Sookie let go of Eric’s hand after giving his palm a soft kiss. He smiled as he began to build the fire and kept one eye on her as she explored.
She walked slowly around the living room, admiring the furnishings; everything except for a large, comfortable looking couch was handmade from oak, the smell of which filled the air. The floors, too, were made of oak and obvious effort had been made in smoothing the planks to fit the room perfectly.
Along one wall were several bookcases filled to the brim with volumes of all shapes and sizes, many of which looked very old. Sookie decided to make a point of browsing through them while Eric slept the next day. She also noticed a few paintings on the walls and wondered if Eric had done them himself.
She wandered into a small dining area furnished with a table and two chairs. A desk with a laptop on it sat in the corner of the room, and Sookie could see a small outbuilding through the window.
Next was a small kitchen. Sookie returned briefly to the living room to retrieve the food from the backpack and smiled to herself as she took in Eric lighting the fire. Happiness burst from her end of the bond as she realized he was humming softly to himself. Sensing her there, he turned around and gave her a smile that lit up her insides before returning to his task.
Sookie went back to the kitchen and opened up the bag of food; her smile of contentment widened as she noticed all the food Eric had packed and the two sandwiches he’d made for her. She put everything except for the fruit into the refrigerator, which had been stocked with only TruBlood before.
She ran her fingers over the beautiful granite counters and noticed that there was a new oven and range in addition to the microwave she had expected to see. She briefly wondered why Eric had an oven as she opened a cabinet and saw some dishes. Again, she wondered why Eric would need dishes as she pulled out a large bowl to put the fruit into.
Next, Sookie wandered down the short hall and found the only bedroom; it was dominated by a huge handcrafted bed made out of what Sookie guessed was rosewood. The bed was made up with dark blue linens that felt softer than silk to her touch. A dresser and a cabinet-style closet―crafted out of the same kind of wood as the bed―completed the furnishings in the room. A huge cream-colored rug softened the overall masculine effect of the space.
Sookie saw a door leading to a bathroom; she gasped as she looked inside. The bathroom was bigger than her bedroom at home. In the middle of it was a huge, old-fashioned-looking tub, which was twice as large as the one Bill had. In the corner was a large shower with glass walls and doors. It looked to have about three nozzles. There were two sinks and a toilet. Seeing that, Sookie’s surprise kicked in once again. “Why would Eric need a toilet?” she wondered to herself. When she saw a full roll of toilet paper hung up next to the toilet, her shock really set in.
“What has you baffled, little one?” Eric asked from behind her.
Sookie spoke but kept her eyes trained on that toilet paper. “It’s just―why do you have a toilet here, Eric? Or a stove? Or even dishes? You said you built most of this place yourself. I don’t get why you’d need human stuff if no one else ever came here. You have toilet paper, for goodness sakes!”
From behind her, he entwined his long arms around her stomach and bent down, taking in the scent of her hair as he loved to do. “I had the kitchen and bathroom redone in the last year, min kära. I knew you would return, and to be frank, making sure that all my homes could accommodate you helped me to keep busy, especially right after you disappeared. I wanted you to be comfortable here―in this place―most of all.”
“But you didn’t even know I’d come back, and even then, how could you know that we would ever get together?” she asked as she turned around in his arms to face him.
“As I told you before, I somehow knew you would return, no matter what anyone else said or thought. And as for the rest, you could call it hope―maybe even faith.”
He smiled a bit, “Oh, and―of course―I had to occupy myself somehow on the nights that Pam banished me from Fangtasia because of my foul mood. It was either remodel or go on a killing spree, my love,” Eric said jokingly.
He continued as he stroked her hair, “I even put a few canned goods and other nonperishable food stuffs into each of my homes for you. But the renovations to this one were the most extensive since the others were initially designed with humans in mind.”
“Do many humans go to your other homes?” Sookie asked, a tinge of jealousy in her voice.
Eric chuckled at her reaction. “Not really. Bobby knows of a few of them and makes deliveries for me at certain locations. I also have some cleaning staff that rotates to take care of most of my homes, but they are, as you can imagine, heavily glamoured. If you mean to ask if I have taken other women or men back to my homes for sex or to feed on, then the answer is no. Godric taught me long ago that it was best to keep those things separate from one’s personal life. I have only one home where human donors have gone, and it is similar to the one you saw of Godric’s in Dallas. When I must host parties or house important visiting vampires, it is always in that home, and human escorts are generally expected, so I must provide them.”
Sookie shook her head disapprovingly.
Eric chuckled, “I do not care for that kind of thing either, my love. I am not the most,” he paused, “social―of vampires.”
“But you have tasted and have had sex with many of these donors and fangbangers over the years?” Sookie asked quietly, a tinge of insecurity filtering into the bond.
“Yes,” Eric answered evenly, “but no more―never again.”
Satisfied by his answer, Sookie steeled herself and nodded. Eric gave her a moment as her insecurity turned into resolution and contentment, and then he took her hand. “Do you like it?”
She smiled, “I love it. Did you make all the furniture?”
“Much of it,” Eric said, the pride clear in his voice. “I have a little shop out back where I keep my tools. I enjoy this kind of wood working, but I do not show it in my other homes. This is something of my sanctuary. And now it is ours.”
Eric raised Sookie’s hand and kissed it gently before leading her toward a door that she hadn’t noticed in the small hall. Eric opened it, and they were met by what looked to be a closet.
“Wait,” Eric said. “If you didn’t expect a toilet here, how were you going to take care of your human needs?” he looked down at her curiously.
Sookie smiled, “Well, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it.” Then she put her hands on her hips. “Plus, I’m a country girl. I woulda come up with somethin’!”
Eric chuckled and then bent down slightly to avoid hitting his head on the door frame of the closet. He pushed a panel and revealed another key pad. After putting in a code and his thumbprint again, the back of the closet slid open and revealed a set of steps similar to those of the cubby. Eric led Sookie down the steps and into a room about twice as large as the cubby space at the farmhouse. There was a bed and a desk with another computer set-up. What looked to Sookie like security equipment occupied the rest of the surface of the desk. A small refrigerator sat in the corner of the room.
Eric raised the laptop lid, and it sprang to life. “I need to borrow your thumb, dear one,” he said as he placed her digit on a small pad that was hooked up to the laptop. “I’m entering you into the computer system. This will give you access to all my―I mean our―homes. All you need to do is memorize this six-digit code: 070708.”
“Well, that’s easy enough to remember. Where’d you come up with that number?”
Eric smiled softly, “That was the day I first laid eyes on you, min kära.”
Sookie sat on the bed and said nothing for a few minutes as Eric continued setting her up in the security system.
“When do I get to marry you?” she asked abruptly just as he was finishing his task. “I don’t wanna wait a long time. I mean―I know we are finishing the bond tonight, but I wanna marry you in your vampire way―uh―pledge to you.”
He turned and smiled at her, “Impatient, my love?”
“I’m just sure. And I want something official, you know? Gran would have skinned me alive to be livin’ with someone before I was married to him. And I’m not willin’ to be away from you again, so we’d better do it soon so that Gran doesn’t haunt us. Remember that she could give us both a good scolding through Lafayette if she wanted to.” Sookie was only half joking.
Eric chuckled, “I agree―I do not think that I want Gran angry at me.”
Sookie giggled and then her expression sobered. “A pledging is not some kinky vampire ceremony thing, is it?”
Eric chuckled again and an evil glint entered his eye. “We could make it kinky if we wished. Many vampires mate publically after the marriage ceremony―to make it official, as it were.”
Sookie’s mouth fell open, “We don’t have to do that, do we?”
Eric laughed loudly, “No, my love. Vampire marriages are odd. They often include provisions for exactly when sex will be had, usually at yearly state meetings or the like. The marriage negotiations have been known to last longer than the one-hundred years of the marriage itself. But the actual pledging is very easy. In fact, if you agree, I would like for it to occur at Fangtasia Sunday night.”
“Now look who’s in a hurry, buster,” Sookie teased.
Eric was meditative for a moment, “I am in a hurry, actually. I find that I am eager for you to be my pledged.”
“Have you ever been vampire married before?”
Eric scoffed, “No―vampire weddings are rare, except among the monarchy, and as I suggested, those marriages are mostly made for political reasons.”
“Wait!” Sookie said suddenly. “I can’t miss work on Monday. I promised Sam!”
Eric chuckled, “We will make sure you are home in plenty of time, min kära.”
“Will the house be safe then―I mean from Bill?”
“Well, we will keep listening in to have a better idea about whether he makes any immediate plans regarding us. And tomorrow during the day, Miranda is implementing some extra security for your―I mean our―home. She’ll be installing entry devises like the ones here. If we also stay here tomorrow night, then she can add some other security features as well.”
“When did you arrange all that, mister high-handed vampire?”
“Right after I made your sandwich, miss test-giving fairy.”
With clear purpose in her eyes, Sookie got up and went over to him. She took both his cheeks into her hands and then planted a loud kiss squarely on his lips. “How did I ever find someone so perfect for me?” she mused, almost to herself.
Not really having any words, Eric simply smiled up at her.
Sookie picked up her previous train of thought. “Somehow all that James Bond stuff seems like it will be out-of-place at Gran’s house.”
“Maybe―but it is necessary if I am to be safe resting there, especially when you are not there to protect me, little one.”
Sookie scoffed, “Don’t tease me like that, Eric.”
“Who’s teasing, min kära?” Eric asked seriously. “I have lost track of all the times you have saved my life. You pulled those chains off of me in the Fellowship church, you willingly sucked silver out of me, you helped me―though unintentionally―to entrap Russell, . . .”
Sookie interrupted, “None of those actually saved your life though.”
“They did, my love; do not sell yourself short. You and you alone saved me when you dragged me inside of Fangtasia so that I wouldn’t burn even though you have mentioned before that I―and I quote―‘weigh a ton.’” His eyes glinted with teasing before he turned serious again. “You used first your light and then your blood to save me twice that day. And then you took me in when I had amnesia; you stood up to the vampire king to argue for my life. You protected me from the witch’s daylight curse and held me down when I almost broke through my chains. You broke into Marnie’s business to try to rescue me. You broke her spell over me and cured me of its effects. Oh―and then there was the healing today after I was in the sun. Sookie, never doubt the value I place on your ability to protect those you love. And never doubt the value I place on the fact that you’ve made me one of those.”
The passion thick in his voice, he continued, “You are smart. You are loyal. You are brave. You are powerful. And you are mine. I will always be safer if you are there during my resting time.”
Sookie smiled shyly and looked up through long lashes, “I like that you value me.”
“Good,” Eric returned her smile and teased, “Perhaps one day you will even become accustomed to it?”