After several minutes of shared bliss, Sookie observed, “We are gonna have to get a tub like this at home.”
Eric chuckled, “Indeed.”
Sookie raised up a bit, “Where’d you find a Viking-sized tub anyway?”
“Special order,” Eric said with a twinkle in his eyes. “Standard sizes are too short for my legs, I’m afraid.”
She giggled coyly, “Well, this one seems to be the perfect size, and you can still reach the nozzles with your toes.”
He grinned at her. “Tell me lover, what did you do while I was sleeping today?”
She returned his smile and then leaned back so that she could look at him easier, “I explored a bit. I looked at your books and paintings. Oh, and I read a bit of Godric’s books, but I didn’t find out much new, except. . .”
Sookie paused, and Eric felt a mixture of anger and sadness seep into the bond. “What is it, my love?”
“I found out that Bill could have changed the type of tie he created with me. If his motives toward me had truly become pure and unselfish―honorable―then he wouldn’t have been able to help its changin’, just like you couldn’t help forming the second kind of tie with me. That means that Bill never really loved me at all.”
“Bill is a fool,” Eric said as he stroked Sookie’s back in comfort and pulled her once again into his embrace. “And I am the beneficiary of his fool-heartedness.”
A few moments later, Sookie smiled into his chest, “And the book also confirmed what you told me the other night about ties and bonds. That was nice to know.”
Eric chuckled, “You were very clever that night, min kära.” His side of the bond filled with amusement and pride. “You managed to use myself―my dream self, that is―to make sure that I couldn’t lie to you without your knowing it.” Another chuckle rumbled in his chest. “I love seeing how your mind works its way around a problem.” He turned a bit serious, “I hope that you have no more doubts where I am concerned, but if you need to continue questioning me, it is fine.”
Sookie leaned back again and looked Eric in the eye. “No doubts―not any more, Eric. None.” Then she got a mischievous look in her eyes, “Even if I did, the book confirmed that you would be unable to deceive me without my knowing.”
“Darn―now how will I ever be able to keep my world domination plans or my love of snuggies from you?” He gave an exaggerated sigh. “We will just have to be honest with one another, min kära.”
“Damned skippy,” she returned, splashing him a bit.
Eric laughed. “Lie back in the water, my love. Let me wash your hair?” Eric requested as he braced her back with one strong hand.
She leaned back and gave control of her body to Eric. After wetting her hair fully, he brought her back into a sitting position and massaged shampoo into it. She moaned in pleasure. “That feels so good!” she said as she closed her eyes.
Eric leaned her back into the water to rinse her hair. He next kneaded conditioner into it and repeated the process. Once he was done, Sookie pulled the drain, started new hot water in the tub, and grabbed the hand-held nozzle. She wet Eric’s hair and gave him the same treatment he’d given her.
“I have never had my hair washed by a lover,” he purred contentedly, “not in a thousand years.
“It’s a first for me too,” she smiled as she put back the hand nozzle. She picked up a loofa and poured some body wash on it. She used it to lather his body with tender touches, keeping her eyes on his the entire time. After she was done, he wordlessly took the sponge from her and washed her as well. Once finished, he rinsed off the loofa and put it to the side even as she turned on the hand-held nozzle again and rinsed them.
When she was done, he turned off the water, lifted them out of the tub, and pulled two towels out of a cupboard. They dried off one another slowly, their eyes never leaving each other’s. Their touches were about care and devotion rather than lust in that moment.
With a quick kiss to her forehead, Eric disappeared into the bedroom for a moment and returned with a robe and a pair of boxers. He put on the boxers and draped the large robe around her body. She smiled up at him, “We work well together, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” he smiled. “Are you hungry, my love?”
She returned his smile. “Yes, I should definitely eat considering the fact that I’m sure you will keep me up late tonight.”
Eric tried to look innocent, which only caused Sookie to break out into laughter.
Eric’s failed angelic look turned devilish, “You are right, lover. I have many intensions for you tonight, so let’s go get you fed.”
The laughter left Sookie’s face, and it was immediately replaced by worry. “But it’s still light out,” Sookie insisted. “You should stay out of the sunlight for another half an hour at least. I’ll bring my food back here.”
Eric looked at Sookie seriously, “I’d much rather watch the sunset with you, min kära.”
“But Eric, what if . . .” Sookie began.
“Do not worry about the ‘what if’,” Eric interrupted. “My body―my instincts―will tell me if the sun is going to hurt me.”
Sookie looked a bit skeptical.
“We will go outside only right before the sun falls,” Eric reassured. “And if I feel any trepidation at all, I will not venture out.”
Reluctantly, Sookie nodded. She raised her hand and cupped his cheek. “It’s not that I don’t believe in this magic―my magic―that seems to be making you less and less threatened in the sunlight, but you have to understand that one of my greatest fears in you burnin’. When I saw you outside with Russell, and your face was all blackened up, it really made me afraid that I was going to lose you.”
“I know,” Eric said in a soft voice. “It was right after I had had your blood for the first time, and your emotions, which had been muted to me because we had not completed the tie before then, came to me strongly for the first time. That morning, I felt the sun warming my skin, and it was amazing―at least, until your blood wore off. But even that did not compare to feeling your determination to save me and your worry that you had been too late. It was then that I knew that you cared for me. Feeling that from you was more beautiful than seeing the sun again.”
“You couldn’t tell I cared for you after the kiss in your office?” Sookie asked coyly as she tentatively opened the door of the bedroom and let in some of the streaks of daylight.
“I felt your body respond to me, and after our kiss, your eyes held something that I thought I had lost after saying what I said to you at Russell’s. But I feared that you would always despise me after I chained you in the basement. And then, I allowed Russell to taste you, and I tasted you without your consent,” his voice trailed off low and regretful. “You would have been justified in hating me. You should have hated me.”
“But instead, I loved you.”
“Yes, I felt that you just might love me too that morning. I hoped that you might.”
Sookie took Eric’s hand and led him into the hallway and toward the kitchen. “If you feel anything, you have to use vamp speed back to the cubby, okay?”
“Yes dear,” Eric said in the exaggerated fashion of the old sitcoms Gran used to watch.
Sookie couldn’t help giggling a bit. “Okay, you sit here.” Sookie pointed to the chair at the table that was farthest from the window, and she closed the curtains tightly for good measure. Then she pulled out the Tupperware container of casserole and the peach pie from the refrigerator. As she was warming her food, she fixed a glass of water for herself and readied a TruBlood for the microwave. After a few minutes, everything was prepared, and she sat down opposite Eric, still watching him like a hawk.
“How long until sunset?” she asked before taking a bite.
“About 20 minutes,” Eric said.
Sookie nodded and began eating. When she made her way to the pie and opened the container it was in, she saw Eric’s nostrils flare.
She smiled at him, “When will the peach trees be planted at the house?”
He returned her smile, “After the winter. I have arranged for already-mature trees to be put in. Perhaps there will be peaches this year if the trees take to the soil well and recover quickly from their transplant.”
“Even if they don’t,” Sookie smiled, “there are some peach trees at Arlene’s place, and she always has too many ripen at once. She brings the ones she doesn’t use to me.”
Eric grinned. “You are a wonder, min kván.”
Sookie looked at him in question.
“It is a wonder to me that you think about my wants in this way,” he clarified.
Sookie smiled and then finished her dessert.
Anxiousness clear on his face, he glanced toward the door.
“You sure?” she asked.
He nodded and grinned at her like a kid getting ready to go on a roller coaster.
Sookie went into the living room and got the old afghan. “Put this around yourself at least,” she ordered. Then she took Eric’s hand and led him to the door. She entered the code to disarm the security system, and wordlessly, the couple walked outside. The sun hovered just above the horizon in front of them, bathing the few clouds in the sky with orange light.
Eric inhaled sharply and unnecessarily, not taking his eyes from the beautiful sight―even as Sookie never took hers from his body.
She began to shake after a few minutes, and Eric dragged his eyes from the rapidly setting sun to reassure her, “I am fine, my love. It’s okay.”
She nodded bravely, but continued to worry, her fear welling inside of her. Suddenly, she felt the magic in her body heighten and flow through their joined hands. Eric arched into her touch.
“Min kärs,” he whispered as the sun finally sank into the horizon, and he sank onto his knees, overwhelmed by her light flowing into him.
“Shit,” Sookie said, falling to her knees beside him and pulling her hand away from his. “I hurt you, Eric. I’m so sorry. I was just so scared!”
“No, Sookie,” Eric said recovering and looking into her eyes with intensity. “I could literally feel your magic reaching into me to protect me. It was,” he paused, looking for the right word, “startling, but not painful. I felt your love as if it was surrounding me and shielding me. You are truly my sköldmöns.”
“What’s that?” Sookie asked.