Right after Eric had settled them comfortably onto the floor and wrapped them in blankets, his cell phone rang. He reached a long arm over to the coffee table to retrieve it.
For the first time, Sookie noticed what the ring tone was and laughed out loud. “Seriously, Eric―‘Suicide Blonde!’”
Eric looked a bit shame-faced. “Pamela programmed it. She believes she is quite funny.”
“Wonder whom she inherited that from.”
Eric almost managed to look innocent as he answered the phone. “Pamela, do you have a report?”
“Yes,” she said on the other end of the line. “I think Sookie should hear too.”
Eric’s face took on a serious expression as he asked, “Bill?”
Eric set the phone to speaker.
Sookie propped herself up on Eric’s chest and said, “Good evenin’, Pam.”
Pam deadpanned, “Depends on who you are. I must say, however, that you are managing to keep my maker quite happy. Whatever were you doing to him about fifteen minutes ago? I had to wait to call until he’d,” she paused, “settled down a bit.”
Sookie’s face went deep red as Eric half-heartedly cautioned, “Enough Pamela,” even as he winked at his bonded. “You have a report for us?”
Sookie couldn’t help but smile at the casual way Eric had said ‘us.’
“Yes. You and Sookie have been a constant topic of conversation at Bill’s home tonight―that is, when they’ve been talking.”
“And?” Eric asked, not wanting for Pam to make Sookie feel too uncomfortable.
“He and Lillith have been weighing his options. They discussed whether Bill should try to somehow force or manipulate Sookie into taking his blood again. Bill seems to believe that this alone would make Sookie be in love with him.” Pam scoffed.
Sookie shivered and Eric pulled her closer to him and tucked the afghan around her more tightly.
Pam added, “They have decided, however, not to pursue this course of action.”
Eric felt Sookie’s relief as Pam continued, “Apparently, Bill fears that Sookie would reject his blood.”
“Damned right!” Sookie piped in.
Pam chuckled. “And he also fears that Eric would try to kill him.”
Eric spoke seriously, even as he caressed Sookie with light touches, “There would be no trying.”
Sookie kissed his chest, appreciating for the thousandth time the mixture of hard and soft in her vampire. She had come to accept that Bill would seal his own fate if he tried to harm either of them.
Pam continued more soberly, “They also briefly discussed resurrecting Russell from his entombment.”
Sookie tensed even as Eric stroked her hair reassuringly.
“Thankfully, this Lillith seems to have some sense and pointed out that Russell would most likely kill Bill too―as well as take Sookie―so that idea was also scratched.”
“And?” Sookie asked this time, her relief apparent in her voice.
Eric smiled at his bonded.
Pam spoke, “They have decided to continue with their previous course; I’ve started thinking of it as ‘Operation Succubus.’” She paused dramatically. “Lillith will try to get Eric’s attention and seduce him.”
Sookie and Eric both scoffed at this at the same time and then grinned at each other.
Pam, hearing their reaction, chuckled. “I assume, master, that your response indicates that you won’t be playing along.”
“Hell no he won’t!” Sookie said possessively.
Eric chuckled, “You heard my bonded. Perhaps, Lillith can be persuaded that you are the finer catch, Pamela.”
Pam purred, “Oh―I like the sound of that. I can make poor little Lillith into my playmate for a while, and we can feed her whatever information we wish. I did always want to be an actress, you know.”
Eric rolled his eyes, “Didn’t you try that once, Pam? I seem to remember a certain stint on Broadway.” He winked at Sookie.
Pam let out an exaggerated sigh, “Yes, but the director was an idiot. Even his blood was awful!”
“Yes, Elia Kazan was just awful,” he deadpanned.
Pam snorted, “Obviously―he was over-rated.”
“If I remember correctly, didn’t you glamour him so that you would get a lead role and so that he would schedule all the rehearsals for night? And didn’t the critics . . .”
Pam interrupted him, “I was ahead of my time. They simply didn’t understand my craft.”
Sookie was working hard to stifle a giggle as Eric rolled his eyes again.
Eric asked, “Is there anything else we need to know?”
Pam sighed, “Just that Billy boy still wishes you very much deader than you already are.”
That statement sobered Sookie immediately.
Sensing some concern coming from both Sookie and Pam, Eric assured, “Do not worry; I will be watching my back, ladies.” He hung up the phone with Pam.
“You’d better be,” Sookie said seriously.
Eric kissed her forehead and tried to send reassurance through the bond.
“And I want you wearin’ your vest for the pledgin’, mister.”
Eric smiled, “I was already planning to, min kära. Of course, that means you will have an additional item to remove from me after it is over. Think you can handle it?”
She smacked him playfully on the chest and nestled into his body.
“Getting chilly, lover?” he asked as he felt her cooling flesh against his.
“A little,” she said, trying to snuggle in more. “Someone here doesn’t have much body heat,” she joked.
“Wonder who that is,” Eric chuckled. “Well―since my body heat is deficient, I will build the fire back up.”
Sookie protested weakly as he went to get up, but since she wanted the fire, she didn’t stop him. Before he went to the fireplace, however, he zipped into the kitchen and brought her a warm rag and towel. Without a word, he lovingly cleaned up the evidence of their earlier lovemaking from her body so that she would be more comfortable. She couldn’t help but arch into his touch.
After he was finished, he gave her a light kiss on the lips and went to the fire. She enjoyed the show as he bent to stoke the embers and added more wood.
“I know what you are doing, lover,” Eric purred with his back still turned. “I can feel your naughtiness through the bond.”
“Yeah, I’m enjoying the fine piece of ass that is officially gonna be my property tomorrow night,” Sookie said unapologetically.
“My ass is your property now?” Eric asked playfully.
Eric turned and stalked back toward her, his gracious plenty flaccid but still quite impressive. Sookie took in a deep breath. Suddenly, she was no longer cold at all.
“Do you wish to take ownership of anything else on my body as well?”
“Yep,” she said, continuing the play, even as her face turned fire-engine red and heated. “But you need to come over here so that I can inspect the goods.” She crooked her finger.
“What would you like to inspect first, lover?” he teased suggestively.
“Those,” she said, pointing to his feet.
He sat down and stretched his legs out before her. She reached out for his feet as if she were going to massage them, but instead, she tickled for all she was worth. And the thousand-year-old vampire in front of her doubled over in laughter and pulled away.
“You are an evil woman,” Eric smiled after he’d recovered.
“And you’re a ticklish vampire,” Sookie laughed back.
Eric tilted his head to the side and looked at Sookie predatorily. “How about you, my love?” He began crawling toward her slowly, and she tried to wrap the afghan tighter around her body even as she scooted away. “Now where was your ticklish spot again?”
He launched, and before she could even take in a breath, the afghan was off of her, and he was tickling her ribs. “No fair using vamp speed,” she managed between chortles. After a few more seconds, he stopped his assault and pulled her to him in an embrace. Contentment flowed between them in strong waves.
“Cheater,” Sookie said, as she sunk into him and put her arms around his neck, playing with the baby hairs at the nape.
“Who me?” Eric chuckled.
Sookie pulled away from him and pushed her finger into his chest, “Yes, vampire―you.”
Eric smiled, “Do not forget that you started it.”
She scrunched up her nose.
Eric gave her a tender look that melted her heart and pulled the robe back onto Sookie’s shoulders so that she would be warm. He then put back on his track pants, knowing of Sookie’s propensity for modesty. She smiled appreciatively.
“Tell me something no one else knows,” Sookie requested suddenly as he settled back onto the floor next to her.
Eric contemplated for a moment. “I like American professional football. I got into it once Monday night games were started.” He paused. “It was one of the reasons why I decided to keep Fangtasia closed on Mondays and to complete area meetings on Sundays.”
Sookie’s mouth fell open in surprise.
“What?” Eric asked. “It is also much more convenient now to enjoy the sport since DVR recorders are available. I often watch a game after I return home following work.” He looked at Sookie a bit sheepishly. “I confess that this is why I installed satellite television into the farm house as well.”
“What?” Eric asked again.
Unconsciously, she began to stroke his bare shoulder. “It’s just that I have a hard time imagining it.” She paused, “I like football too, you know. You’d better be a Saints fan! Hey,” she said without taking a breath, “we should have people over on Monday night. I know Jason, Jesus and Lafayette would be in. And Bubba could come inside to watch too!”
“I could force Pam to attend as well,” Eric said with an evil glint in his eyes. “The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing the Denver Broncos. She will not approve of either uniform.”
After a second, however, Eric became more serious, “But you are working that day, my love. I do not want you over-tired in preparing for a party as well.” He added, “Oh―and, of course, I like the Saints.”
Sookie smiled. “Good. And―no―it wouldn’t be too hard for me. If Pam and Bubba’s noses can take it, we’ll order pizza. I’ll just make some salsa for chips, and with beer, the humans will be all set. And, of course, we’ll just need bloods for you, Bubba, and Pam.”
Eric lifted Sookie’s hand to his lips. “Is this what it will be like to be with you Sookie? I tell you something I enjoy, and you strive to make it even better for me?”
Sookie smiled at the sincerity in Eric’s shining eyes. “Yep―that’s about right.”
He kissed the back of her hand tenderly.
Eric repeated Sookie’s request, “Tell me something I do not know about you, min kära.” He got a twinkle in his eyes, “Tell me your favorite flower.”
Sookie shook her head. “I thought you were gonna keep bringing me flowers until you got it right.”
His eyes were full of mischief. “Perhaps I could tickle it out of you, lover.” He reached toward her.
“No!” Sookie yelled, laughing. “Wait! I’ll give you a hint.”
Eric stopped. “Oh, a game!” He rubbed his hands together in glee, just like a little boy. “I do not often play games, min kära, but when I do, I always win.”
She laughed at the mirth in his eyes and coming from his side of the bond. “Okay. We’ll play twenty questions.”
“I do not know this game,” Eric said, his brows furrowing .
“Well you ask me questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Your goal is to try to find out what I’m thinking of―in this case, my favorite flower―in twenty questions or less. For example, if it were a rose and you asked me, ‘Does it have thorns?”, then I’d have to say, “Yes.”
“So it is a game of logic. What will I get if I win?”
Sookie contemplated. “A kiss?”
Eric looked at Sookie seriously. “Agreeable. And if I should fail, what will you ask of me?”
“Agreed.” The corners of Eric’s lips smirked up. “Then I shall begin. Is your favorite color blue?”
Sookie laughed, a little surprised by Eric’s seemingly off-topic question. “Yes.”
“I thought so, but this is something that a husband must know.” He kissed Sookie on the cheek.
Sookie pushed him away playfully, “Hey, don’t get ahead of yourself, cowboy. You haven’t won that yet.”
“Of course.” Eric gave her a million-watt smile, which made Sookie want to kiss him back, but she stopped herself. He looked at her knowingly before asking his second question, “Is your favorite flower blue, lover?”
“Ah, I see your logic now, vampire. Yes―it is.”
“Hmm,” Eric sounded. He knew that he’d placed several varieties of blue flowers into Sookie’s garden while he’d owned the property. Based on the objects in her room, he’d narrowed down her favorite color to either blue or yellow, so he’d also had many yellow flowers planted. And, of course, he’d put in a lot of white daisies for Adele. He’d kept all of the mature rose bushes that he had been certain Adele had nourished throughout the years, but most of the other plants had been left to die in the months after Sookie had disappeared.
He asked his third question, “Did I plant the flower in your garden, min kära?”
She smiled, “Yes.”
“Is it currently in bloom?”
Sookie shook her head, “No.”
He contemplated briefly and then asked his fifth question, “Is there just a single bloom on a stem?”
He smiled, “Do you love me?”
“Yes,” she smiled back.
“Are you mine?”
She grunted, “Yes.”
“Am I yours?”
He chuckled, “Are you as eager as I am to be pledged?”
He raised an eyebrow, “Would you be angry at me if I bought you a new car as a pledging gift?”
“Eric,” her voiced warned him, “yes.”
They both laughed.
“Will you let me take my kiss from wherever I choose?” he purred.
Sookie suddenly felt breathless, “Yes.”
“Would you like to carry blue hydrangeas tomorrow when you pledge with me?”
Sookie nodded, “Yes.”
“Then you will.” He lifted Sookie’s hand to his lips again and took his kiss.
Eric rose to re-stir the fire and put another log on it as Sookie went to the bathroom. When she came back, he arranged them so that they were lying comfortably in each other’s arms on the pallet. The couple fell into easy silence, Sookie feeling the lateness of the hour and Eric enjoying simply being near his bonded.
“This is the first day we’ve ever spent completely alone, min kära,” he whispered after a while. He ran his fingers through her hair.
“I know. It’s heaven,” Sookie sighed, snuggling into Eric’s shoulder and slinging her leg over his.
Eric continued to caress Sookie’s hair lazily, enjoying the firelight shimmering off her blonde curls. After a while, he felt anxiety creep into the bond.
“What is it, my love?” he asked.
“Eric, I have one more secret that I’ve kept from you―from everyone. I love you, and I wanna tell you about it, but I’m also afraid.”
“I will not break your confidence. I could not.” Eric said sincerely.
Sookie sat up. “It’s just that the secret isn’t about me, and it’s big, but I don’t wanna keep anything from you.”
Eric sat up with her and took both of her hands. “I can feel the burden of this secret for you. As my bonded―and soon to be my pledged and wife according to vampire custom―you have already given me innumerable gifts. You have given me your love; you have given me the sunlight again. Please, min kära, the least I can do is help you bear your burdens. Is this not what a helpmate does?”
Sookie smiled and squeezed his hands. She took in a deep breath. “Hadley had a child named Hunter, and that child is like me.”
Eric took in this knowledge and nodded. “I understand your reluctance to tell anyone this secret, my love. Do you know where your cousin and her child are?”
“No. But I wanna try to find him and help him with his telepathy. I was so scared when I was his age.”
Eric could feel the pain of Sookie’s past fear through the bond and bent over to kiss her forehead in a comforting gesture. He spoke, “Then―we will find your nephew so that you can help him, my love. Plus, we will need to protect him from the fairy threat. If they are trying to round up those of their kind, then they either already know of Hunter or they will in the future.”
“Yes, I’ve thought about that too,” Sookie sighed and then hesitantly asked, “Can you feel Hadley, Eric? I know you had her blood, and she had yours.”
Eric could feel a bit of jealousy from Sookie through the bond and squeezed her hand. “I have not tried to feel your cousin through the tie I made with her in over a year, Sookie―not since I influenced her to warn you to flee before Russell came for you.”
“Can you try now?”
Eric nodded and closed his eye, activating the magic that held his tie with Hadley. He tried to use it to seek her out, but there was nothing there. He opened his eyes. “I’m sorry, min kära. I do not feel her.”
Sookie’s bit her lip. “Does that mean she’s dead?”
“Not necessarily. She had very little of my blood, and it has been a long time since she took it. If she is far away, then I would not be able to feel her.”
Sookie sighed with relief. “Okay, now what?”
“I have a human private investigator that I use from time to time. He is very discreet, and I will have him begin a search for Hadley and your nephew. No one will be able to trace this search to us, and he will not need to know of the boy’s telepathy. Once we find them, we will make sure they are safe and taken care of so that Hunter can stay off the radars of both fairies and vampires.”
Sookie pulled herself into Eric’s lap, “Thanks.”
Eric laid them back down. “Try to sleep, min kära.” Eric said quietly, “I will begin thinking of what can be done to covertly aid your nephew and cousin.”
Sookie burrowed into him and was asleep within minutes.
At 5:00, still more than an hour and a half before the sun rose, the thousand year old vampire did something he’d never been capable of before; he decided to take his rest during the night. He curled his body into Sookie’s and as much as the vampire could, he slept next to his bond-mate.