Thirty minutes later, Sookie watched longingly as Eric slid himself gracefully into a pair of jeans. She could probably write volumes debating whether her husband’s bottom looked better with his jeans on or off. Hell—her man made even track pants look scrumptious! She felt her lust rising and her cheeks inflame. A little chuckle from Eric as he bent over the dresser to seemingly study his T-shirt choices made her want to go all cavewoman and drag him back to bed. However, she shook her head forcefully and turned to the closet to grab a sweater.
She couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever get enough of him; she grinned, hoping that she would not. For all his silliness and public nudity, she adored him. In fact—she loved him all the more because―even at a thousand years old―he could still be a bit goofy at times. And she definitely loved that he had always been willing to show that side of himself to her.
Somehow, she’d recognized that playfulness in him from the moment they’d first met. He’d told her in that wonderfully sarcastic and frisky tone of his, “Well―aren’t you sweet.” She still wondered what had compelled her to retort in the same tone, “Not really.” She chuckled to herself. That response had certainly earned her a negative reaction from Bill, who had judged Eric’s attitude as somehow threatening.
But―even then―Sookie had known better. She had sensed the playful―and, yes, even sometimes goofy―man underneath the sheriff persona. She had felt an unknown kind of kinship with him―a stretching out from herself to him and a similar stretching from him in return―in those first nervous moments of their meeting. Perhaps, that was why she’d decided to reveal her telepathy to Eric and warn him about the police raid. It certainly hadn’t been the smartest thing to do, and with any other vampire―including Bill―the revelation of her telepathy would have put her on a path toward servitude. She was certain—now—that she told Bill about her ability because he’d fed her his blood and had used it to influence her. But with Eric, there had been no such influence before she revealed her gift in front of him.
Sookie thought about the first night she met Eric often. Even if she’d been caught up in the police raid of Fangtasia, what would the authorities really have done to Bill and her? Nothing—maybe ask them some questions. It would have been a slight inconvenience to them at most. And then they would have been sent on their way. After all, they’d been doing nothing wrong there. Eric and Pam—as the bar’s owners—were the ones who would have been in trouble, not her or the vampire she’d come with. No. There had been something else that even she had failed to acknowledge at the time which had made her warn Eric—instinct.
She smiled as Eric pulled on a dark blue T-shirt that she knew would look wonderful with his eyes. Bill had been right to feel threatened by Eric that first night—but not for any of the reasons the Civil War veteran could have imagined. Who would have thought that it would be Eric’s playfulness that would really first attract her, after all? Certainly, Bill had never been playful or goofy around her. And that was just one more reason why she was more and more certain each day that her choice in men had been the right one—for her.
“Hey,” she asked, “what did you tell Pam in Swedish that first night I met you at Fangtasia?”
He turned around to face her with a smirk already on his face, “Do you mean after you flirted with me, min älskare.”
Sookie worked hard to put a shocked expression on her face, “I. Was. Not. Flirting!”
He chuckled, “Really. Oh well―that’s quite disappointing,” he paused, “for me.”
She laughed. “You were the one flirting!”
“But of course,” he bowed a bit. “And you weren’t―not at all?” he asked with a twinkle in those dangerously beautiful blue eyes of his.
She scrunched up her nose, “Well―maybe. Maybe just a little,” she admitted. “But I didn’t mean to!”
His smirk immediately turned into a sincere smile, “In retrospect, I think that is what I’m most pleased about. You weren’t meaning too―I know. But you did anyway.”
She reached out to take his hand. “I guess I did. Now―don’t duck the question, cowboy. What did you tell Pam?”
Eric chuckled again, “I told her that we’d just made a new addition to our little zoo—you!”
Sookie’s eyes went as wide as saucers! “You compared me to an animal, Eric Northman! In a zoo!” She hit him on the arm—this time not so playfully.
Sensing the potential for her feelings to really be hurt, Eric reached out and pulled Sookie into his embrace. “Sookie, I considered myself to be the zoo’s chief fucking attraction―if it makes you feel better. The comment was not meant to insult you; it was just that your scent was so,” he paused, “different to me. I knew that you were more than human. I just didn’t know what you were.”
Sookie snorted and then accepted his embrace. “Fine.” She shook her head and laughed. “I guess we do have quite a zoo here. Instead of ‘lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’ we have ‘vampires and fairies and Weres, oh my!’”
He chuckled, “And witches and a demon. Oh―and we actually do have lions.”
She nuzzled into him. “You know―I actually love our little ‘zoo.’”
“Me too, my love—me too,” Eric echoed.
They embraced for several moments, enjoying the comfort flowing between them through the bond.
“Bubba has joined the others outside, min kära,” Eric reported. “Shall we go down?”
She smiled up at him. “Lead the way, zookeeper.”
His deep baritone laughter filled the room just as his joy filled their bonds.
Bubba was looking on at the grill as if it were the most offensive thing he had ever seen. Every once in a while, his nose would twitch, and he would move a few steps back from it as if it might attack him.
Jason had run into Jarod at the store and had tagged along, bringing some potato salad as well as some additional beer. He and Lafayette were arguing about grilling duties.
“Bitch, who’s the motha fucka that cooks for a fuckin’ livin’ here?” Lafayette asked in order to try to establish his dominion over the grill.
Sookie briefly left them to their argument to take out some disposable plates and cutlery and grab a hat since the night was cooling down. As she rejoined everyone outside by the grill, the argument between Lafayette and Jason was now raging comically. She had brought out a bottle of blood for Eric and snuggled onto his lap in one of the old wooden lawn chairs she had. Together, they watched the struggle for the grill, feeling each other’s amusement through the vampire bond.
They both noticed when Bubba moved back another step as the cooking meat sizzled.
“Laf, you and I both know that I’ve always been the one to do the grillin’,” Jason insisted.
“No bitch, you’s always been the one to do the over-grillin’,” Lafayette returned.
Jason turned around to Sookie, “Sook, I’ve never over-grilled anything in my life. Tell him!”
“Oh no!” Sookie said, waving her hand. “I’m not gettin’ involved in this one.” She shivered a bit at the cold in spite of the coat and hat she’d put on.
“Would you like a fire out here?” Eric asked softly. “I could build you one.”
Sookie looked up at him hopefully, “You could?”
“Absolutely. And we will add a proper fire pit to our list of things to get in the future, but for now, I think I can whip something up. I was a Viking, after all,” he grinned. He kissed Sookie gently on the nose, gave her a wink, and then got up with her still in his arms. He settled her back into the chair and then turned toward Jesus. “Care to help, brujo?”
Sookie squeezed Eric’s hand, and then watched him move toward the other side of the house with Jesus to collect some firewood from the pile he’d made while she was in the fairy realm. She chuckled. When she saw the enormous wood pile once she’d returned home, she was a bit astonished by its size. Now the thought of Eric chopping down trees―or maybe he’d torn them out of the ground bare-handed for all she knew―sent feelings of lust through her body. There was an answering surge of hunger from him through the vampire bond that made her tingle and fantasize about Eric as a lumberjack, dressed in a flannel shirt with axe in hand. She closed her eyes to steady herself—or maybe just to enjoy her fantasy for a moment. Suddenly, she didn’t feel so cold after all; in fact, she felt a bit overheated. Her brother’s voice snapped her back to the present.
“Come on, Sook,” Jason wailed. “It’s my job to be grill master.”
Miranda stepped in between the two arguers abruptly, causing both Lafayette and Jason to step back. “I will do the grilling, and you two will shut up now,” she said with authority. “You,” she looked at Lafayette, “may assist me. And you,” she said, turning toward Jason, “may go and get me a beer.”
Jarod moved to sit in the chair next to Sookie’s as both Jason and Lafayette hopped to at Miranda’s orders. “What a woman―yes?” he stated more than asked as he looked at his mate.
Sookie smiled at him; she loved the way his Australian accent twanged, especially when he was talking about Miranda.
The Werelioness looked at her mate with a playful glint in her eyes, “And you―shifter―you find out where they are building the fire and set up chairs around it. I don’t plan to eat squatting over a rock.”
“Yes, milady,” Jarod said. He got up, bowed in Miranda’s direction, and gave Sookie a knowing look. She smiled at Miranda who gave her a quick wink.
Meanwhile, Eric had stopped Jesus as they’d reached the woodpile and spoke to him in a low voice. “Sookie is to return to her workplace tomorrow. Is there any kind of spell that might be used to protect her there?”
Jesus had to work hard not to show that he knew that Sookie would soon be quitting. He schooled his features; actually, he had been looking for ways to keep Sookie safer at Merlotte’s throughout the week so that he could help to protect both her and Eric. “I’ve thought about this ever since the,” he paused, “incident with Debbie Pelt.”
Jesus noticed that Eric winced just a tad at the mention of Debbie’s name.
He continued, “I could put a spell in place for Sam since he owns the bar, but it wouldn’t cover Sookie. I can’t think of anything.” He quickly added, “But I’ve decided to take you up on your job offer, so I will have more time to keep looking. I gave my two-week’s notice at work last Wednesday, but since I had a lot of accumulated vacation time, my last day of actual work was yesterday, so I can officially start whenever you want.”
Eric nodded and unconsciously patted Jesus on the back. “This pleases me, brujo. In that case, I would like for you to be at Merlotte’s with Miranda when Sookie is working. No one will think anything of it since you are Lafayette’s beloved. I have also asked the shifter―,” he stopped and corrected himself, “Sam―to be there or to make sure Lafayette is there during her shifts as well. With three or four sets of eyes on her, I will feel better.”
Jesus nodded. “She’ll be fine,” he said.
Eric looked over his shoulder toward the back of the house, “She has to be.” He picked up enough wood to last the night as Jesus picked up a couple of logs and then returned with him to rejoin the others.