A/N: The title of this chapter might seem odd at first; it is named for a song by Sarah McLachlan called “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.” I think this song is hauntingly beautiful and kept going through my head when I was writing the chapter, so I had to give it homage. If you listen to the words, it works for the mood I want to create in this chapter. Here’s a link if you want to listen to the song.
“Let’s make sure you’ve been entered into the system properly,” Eric said as he closed the lid of his laptop.
Sookie gave him a sly smile and then obliged him by going up the steps first; she made sure to shake her bottom wantonly and gave him a seductive glance over her shoulder. She was rewarded by a low rumble from her vampire.
As soon as Eric joined her in the hall, he bent down to kiss her breathless. It was only with great difficulty that he stifled his urge to take her right then, especially when he saw the lust burning in Sookie’s brown eyes. “Soon, min kära,” he whispered as he composed himself.
As Sookie caught her breath, he gestured for her to try opening the panel. After they’d successfully tested the system, she looked up at Eric expectantly.
“There are a few more things we should discuss before the final bond, my love,” Eric said gruffly, though his desire for her had not left his eyes.
Seeing his resolution, Sookie nodded, “Okay. Then, let’s go into the living room so that we can enjoy the fire.”
Once they were settled on the couch, Eric spoke up, his tone a bit nervous, “When you return to work on Monday, Jarod will accompany you. Because he’s a shifter, I feel that Merlotte will be more likely to accept his being there.”
Sookie nodded. “Okay.”
“Jarod will be seeking out your boss later today to let him know about the arrangement. Jarod is also much more―uh―laid-back than Miranda is. She will remain behind in the day to guard the farmhouse when you are not there. The farmhouse will also be more secure because of Jesus’s protection spell, though since it is keyed to the property that you own, it might not protect me as it would you.”
“Oh!” Sookie spoke up. “I asked Jesus about that after he and Lala did the protection spell while you were asleep. He had two ideas. One was to put the property in both of our names. Then he could redo the spell to include you. But I don’t know. Would that keep vampires from entering without an invitation?”
“No, I’m afraid not” Eric clarified. “If a vampire owns the home, even if it is jointly owned with a human, the invitation rule does not apply, unfortunately.”
“Oh well―Jesus doesn’t think that matters too much anyway. You see, the spell literally says that anyone who comes to harm the owner of the property will be repelled, and if someone tried to harm you, it would definitely harm me too, so he thinks the magic will serve to protect us both, especially since we are bonded―since my blood is in you.”
“Excellent,” Eric said. “Let us hope that this is the case.”
Sookie added mischievously, “Plus―especially after we are married―you’re gonna belong to me, Viking, and the spell protects everything that is my property.”
Eric chuckled and pulled Sookie to him, “If others find out just how much I am already your property, min kära, I’m afraid that my reputation will suffer.”
“We can’t have that now, can we?” Sookie teased. “I suppose I will have to keep my ownership of you a secret.”
Eric gave an exaggerated sigh of relief, “Thanks, my love. My standing as a badass vampire will remain intact.”
She winked at him playfully.
After winking back, Eric continued where he’d left off before. “If anyone with ill intent is able to get through the protection spell when you are not there, Miranda will be prepared to deal with the threat in the day, and she will lock down the house. We will also have Jesus strengthen and add wards as he finds them to aid in the protection of our house. You, min kära, may also be able to help strengthen the wards by using your magic. Some of Godric’s books discuss fairy magic, and I will be lending those to Jesus soon to see what he comes up with.”
Eric gestured toward two boxes in the corner of the room. “Those are the ones I will be taking to him. You may, if you wish, look through them tomorrow. One of the boxes contains books that are in English, and in the other are Latin texts. Many witches know this language, but I have yet to ask Jesus if he is one of them.”
“Oh,” Sookie said, “he is! He said a spell in Latin the other day, and I asked him about it.”
“Good,” Eric said. “The security of my resting place―,” he paused and smiled, “the cubby―is also much greater than you may have noticed up to this point. It can act as a safe room and is fireproof as well. Once Miranda connects its independent system to the new all-house system that she will install, the cubby will virtually lock down if the alarm is triggered. At least until our room can be similarly secured, I will spend my days in the cubby when you are working.”
Sookie sunk her shoulder into his. “So you will be safe in the daytime. And if I’m not at home, Jarod will keep me safe.”
“Yes,” Eric said, “And, of course, Bubba, the magic, and I will be there at night to serve as defenses. We can add to this security as needed if, for example, Bill begins planning against us.”
Sookie smiled up at Eric playfully. “Okay, so it’ll be safe to go home Sunday night, and us gettin’ hitched won’t prevent my working on Monday, so let’s do it.”
Eric grew serious, drew back from Sookie a bit, and took her hand. “There are a few more things that I need to tell you about the pledging; you need to know everything before you make up your mind. And you should eat a bit, I think. As soon as we are done talking, you will need all your energy for what I plan to do to you.”
Sookie blushed and shivered due to the intensity in Eric’s eyes. “Okay,” she squeaked out. “That sounds like a plan.” Sookie took care of her human needs, slipped off her shoes and jacket, stowed them in the closet, and grabbed a sandwich and a glass of water before rejoining Eric in the living room. He’d set up some quilts and pillows on the floor in front of the fire.
“All right―tell me,” Sookie said as she sank down next to him on the floor and took a bite of her sandwich.
Eric began, “The reason I chose Sunday to pledge is because all the right people will be there as witnesses.
Sookie nodded for Eric to go on as she took another big bite.
He cocked his head to the side. “Test passed? Sandwich good?”
“Mmm,” she sounded.
He grinned and then continued with his earlier train of thought, “As you know, Fangtasia is closed to the public on Sundays and Mondays.”
Having finished her bite, Sookie said, “Yeah, I interviewed those people for you on a Sunday, right?”
“Indeed. I generally conduct area business on Sunday evenings, and the day after tomorrow, Pam has arranged for Rasul, Thalia, and Isabel to join me. She has planned a small reception after my business is taken care of―ostensibly to celebrate the tenures of the new sheriffs. This is an excuse for their presence in the area both Sunday and Monday nights. I wanted to make sure to have powerful allies near if Bill reacted impulsively to our pledging.”
“When do you have the time to make all these plans?” Sookie asked, shaking her head as she took a sip of water.
Eric chuckled. “Texting is a wondrous invention, lover. I find that I can get much work done even as I hold your delicious body to mine as you sleep.”
Sookie rolled her eyes, “Okay, so why is it important that we have the right witnesses at our pledging.”
“Two reasons. First―all the witnesses to a pledging are bound by tradition to protect it. This is why vampire weddings between monarchs usually take place during large summits of several states. Second―I want Bill to know about the pledging immediately. If he knows about it, he will be unable to do anything to interfere with our relationship; even his position as king would not stop him from facing the true death if he did. Moreover, if he is himself a witness to the event, then his punishment for interference would include much more than just his final end.”
Sookie cringed and asked quietly, “So Bill will be there too?”
Eric nodded. “Most likely―Pam has issued an official invitation to him for the reception, and since all his sheriffs will be there, he will most likely feel obliged to attend. He accepted the invitation last night, but that was before you had spoken to him.”
“So―what if he decides not to come?”
“I will conduct area business early in the evening, and I assume that Bill will still send Lillith to Fangtasia. According to Pam, she remains on the official docket for the evening. If Bill plans to go forward with his ruse to have her spy on me, she will most certainly stay for the reception when Pam invites her.”
“So even if Bill’s not there to see it, we will use his own spy to make sure he knows about our pledging right away.”
“Exactly. As his sheriff, I would also inform him officially after the fact, but having him there would be better since we would be able to respond to his immediate reaction. We would have Isabel, Rasul, and Thalia, along with Bubba, Pam, Chow and some other area people with us. Though Bill may have a couple of human guards with him, his only vampire ally there will be Lillith.”
Eric paused for a moment. “To be honest, my love, I do not fear Bill when he has time to plan. Not only do we have listening devices planted throughout his home, but his moves tend to be quite easy to predict. Trust me―the last year has been filled with his not-so-subtle attempts to undermine me to the Authority or have me removed as sheriff. It is his initial responses to problems that are harder to gauge. They are sometimes rash and can be quite annoying. I was picking cement out of my hair for a month because of one of them; Pamela was inconsolable at the loss of a pair of Jimmy Choos.”
Sookie chuckled at the thought of Pam’s shoes and then got serious, “I could have lost you that night, Eric. And I was such an idiot that I almost took Bill back despite his telling me that he’d ended you. How can I forgive myself for that?”
Eric shook his head and took Sookie’s hand. “Sookie, I watched the security footage from that morning at Fangtasia, the morning when I took your blood without your permission and I allowed Russell to do the same. You have forgiven me for this, my love?”
Eric continued, “I made sure that we did not take too much blood from you that morning. When Russell took more than I had anticipated, I pulled back sooner than I’d intended. You had fainted but would have been fine without Bill’s blood. However, he gave it to you anyway; he gave you a lot.” Eric paused and then smiled at her with pride in his eyes. “Despite his fresh blood in you, you still slapped the shit out of him and came outside to save me. I saw you basically tell Bill to fuck off when he tried to stop you from getting to me.” Eric squeezed Sookie’s hand tenderly. “You were amazing that morning; you resisted the influence of his blood in order to save my life from the sun, and then you fed me to save it again―after you had him create the wound no less!” He chuckled a bit. “I do not blame you for almost falling prey to Bill’s influence later. Your actions that day need no forgiveness from me or yourself, min kära,” Eric vowed forcefully.
Sookie nodded and squeezed his hand before taking a deep breath and deciding to put her past with Bill where it needed to go―behind her. She was looking at her future, after all. She grinned at her vampire, “You know, you didn’t look half bad in cement, Viking.”
He deadpanned, “Well, they say it is the new black.”
Sookie chuckled and took another bite of her neglected sandwich.
A few minutes of comfortable silence passed between Eric and Sookie as she finished her food and thought over what he had said. After she put her used dishes on the coffee table, she abruptly asked, “So you were never married to a vampire, right?”
“No, I was not,” Eric answered.
“Were you married as a human? Did you have children?”
Eric’s eyes took on a faraway look as if he were searching the pages of his past. “Yes, after my parents died, I did my duty and married as I felt my father would have wished. Before I died my human death, I fathered three children, two sons and one daughter. The daughter was stillborn, I’m afraid.”
Sookie took his hand to offer him comfort. His gratefulness for her act swelled in the bond. “What was your wife like?”
“She was strong,” Eric reflected. “She was a good mother to our children, but I did not love her. Of course, in arranged marriages of the time, love wasn’t generally a factor. Russell and his Weres had lowered my people’s numbers, and uniting my village with hers was a wise thing to do. Her father was the chieftain of his clan, but he was old and infirmed and had no son. It was a good arrangement.”
“What was her name?”
Sookie was sad for a moment, thinking about how someone else had given Eric children, something that she couldn’t do. As if sensing the source of her pain, Eric slid closer to her and placed his hand gently on her stomach, where she would have carried their child if it were possible.
He said quietly, “I never desired children as a human, even though I was duty-bound to make them with Aude. But if you had been the mother of my children, I would have felt―differently. I will always regret not being able to give you a child, Sookie. I can imagine a girl with your eyes and your beautiful smile running in the yard. In my mind, she is in the sun you love so much and playing among the peach trees that I put in. I would wish for her to be exactly as you are―the same kind spirit, the same fire. It would be a beautiful sight, and if you ever decide you wish to have a child, we will find a way. I could not be her father in a biological sense, but I have stopped questioning the possibilities in life when it comes to you, min kära.”
Sookie smiled at him through a blur of unshed tears. She put her hand over his on her stomach. “I would have liked to have had your son, Eric. I would have liked seeing him grow strong like you. He would have been beautiful.”
Eric smiled. “I don’t remember much of my children, I’m afraid. By the time Aude had them, I was already much off to war and leading my people. I remember feeling proud to have them, but both the boys were fewer than three winters old when I met my human death.”
They shared another few moments of silence before Eric said, “You are the first I have ever wanted to marry, Sookie. And we will be the first vampire and human to be pledged that I know of.”
“The first? So this is a big deal, then?”
“It is to me, my love. And it will make us safer.”
“Won’t the fact that we are pledged draw more attention to us?”
Eric smiled. “You are shrewd to ask this, min kära. Yes, there is that danger, but too many already know of your telepathy, and being my wife by vampire law will make you untouchable to others while I live.”
Sookie asked apprehensively, “Who knows about my telepathy?”
Eric took a deep, unnecessary breath, “Isabel and a few others from Texas know of it because you helped find Godric, but they have kept it to themselves.” He paused and looked at her with regret in his eyes. “From what I can tell, it seems that Lorena contacted several monarchs about your talents after she left Dallas. It seems that she received the highest bid for your whereabouts from Russell, and that is how she came to be in his retinue. I have found out that the original intent of Russell’s Weres was to kidnap you along with Bill at the restaurant, but Bill―to his credit―told the Weres that you had left, and in their V-intoxicated state, they took only him.”
Eric continued, “But because of Lorena, at least three other kings know of your telepathy, though they do not know of your fairy heritage. And your year-long disappearance has, most likely, caused them to lose interest if they had it to begin with. Telepaths, though rare, are not unheard of, and most vampires would trust the power of their glamour over a telepath. You would be coveted by only those who like,” he paused, “rarities. Sophie-Anne, of course, wanted you because she had somehow learned that you telepathy was indicative of your possible fairy lineage, and she was also a collector of unique humans. Russell seems to have wanted you because of his own proclivity for collecting things.” He paused again as he thought of his father’s crown and how it had been just one more trinket to Russell. As he looked at the woman next to him, he was loathe to imagine her as a part of that same collection. He continued, “Most vampire kings and queens would enjoy the thought of having a telepath available but would not risk the true death to acquire one.”
“Well that’s something at least,” Sookie said. “But how did Lorena find out about me?”
Eric looked at Sookie unswervingly. “I am not sure. I know that it was not from myself or Pam.”
“Bill,” Sookie said sadly.
“She’s a fuckin’ bad penny.”
“Yes, lover, and she’s a penny I introduced,” he said contritely.
“Well, you have the rest of my life to make it up to me, Viking,” Sookie whispered.
Eric nodded, “I will.”
“Okay, so if we pledge Sunday, what will that involve exactly.”
“I will conduct my area business, and after the sheriffs’ reception begins and everyone is in place, I will have Pam call you. Bubba will escort you into the club, and you will simply walk up to me and present me with this.” Eric picked up a velvet bag from the coffee table and opened it to reveal an ornate and ancient-looking knife.
“Godric’s dagger?” Sookie asked.
“It’s beautiful,” Sookie said running her fingers over the symbols on its handle. “So I give you this and then what?”
“That’s it, min kära. You hand me the dagger, and I accept it, and then we are pledged by vampire law.”
“Okay. That sounds easy enough. Is there anything else that I need to know?”
Eric looked a bit pensive, “There will be donors there for the others.”
“Fine,” Sookie said, quickly. “They will not be coerced and will be well-paid, I assume?”
“Of course―any that I arrange for will always be thus,” Eric said, smiling at Sookie’s practical question.
“Okay then. And just to make it crystal clear . . .” she began.
“. . . I will not be having any blood from them or any humans other than you,” Eric continued.
“Unless you have been injured and would die otherwise,” Sookie added.
“Or unless I take some during battle.”
“Fine,” Sookie said again.
Eric reached for Sookie’s hand. “I know it is not how you may have imagined your wedding, my love. Our human wedding―when we are allowed to have one―can be totally of your planning. And I will arrange something else for the pledging if you wish.”
“But you think this way is best?”
“In many ways―yes. And what matters most will be accomplished. You will be my wife in the eyes of other vampires and supernaturals by the end of the night.”
“I want to have my brother there with me; can we do that? It wouldn’t feel the same without my family there.”
Eric smiled. “Of course. And if you wish, Jesus and Lafayette may accompany you too. I will take you to one of my safe houses Sunday after nightfall; it’s quite close to Fangtasia. Bubba, your brother, and the witches can meet you there and wait with you. Then when everything is ready, Pam will call. Miranda and Jarod can be set up at the residence before we arrive to make sure it is secure.” Eric pulled his phone out of his jeans pocket and sent a quick text to Miranda.
“How long will we have to wait there before we come to Fangtasia?” Sookie asked, feeling butterflies all of a sudden.
“Only a few hours, I suspect, min kära. Pamela has been efficient in keeping the night’s business docket light.”
“Okay,” Sookie said.
“Yes, it looks like you are getting a wife Sunday night.”
Eric’s smile lit up his beautiful eyes, and Sookie reached out for him, taking his chin in her hand. “That’s all the talkin’ we needed to do tonight, isn’t it, Viking?” she asked, her brown eyes sparkling seductively. “You―if I remember right―were supposed to be showin’ me your skill at pillaging, and I’m still waitin’.”
This is sort of how I visualized the dagger. This one is actually Egyptian.