When her alarm clock went off at 9:30, Sookie groaned loudly. Eric, still not having been called to his daytime sleep, chuckled deeply and reached over to turn off the offending noise maker. Then he pulled Sookie, who had already been burrowed comfortably into his chest, even closer to him. He ran his fingers lightly over her smooth, soft shoulder blade.
“Mmmm,” she sounded. “You are so much better than an alarm clock.”
He chuckled again. “Are you ready to return to work, min kära?” he asked.
“Sure,” she answered as she rose up a bit. The kitten lifted its little head and let out a half-yawn/half-mew.
As soon as Sookie reached out to pet the kitten good morning, Eric felt uncertainty from her through their vampire bond. “Sookie, are you sure that you wish to go back to work today?”
“Yeah―why do you ask?” Sookie questioned, trying to keep her tone of voice and emotions steady. She planned to surprise Eric later that night with the news of her quitting Merlotte’s and going to college. Also, in her head, she was in the early stages of planning something to make the evening even more special and to make up for their cancelled Monday night football party from the week before. And she wanted that to be a surprise as well. She tried to hold onto her excitement so that Eric couldn’t feel it in the bond.
She succeeded in doing just that―to a certain extent―but Eric could feel that she was keeping something from him, and he could see it in her eyes as well. The perceptive vampire tilted his head and gave her a scrutinous look. “Are you frightened to return to Merlotte’s?”
She shook her head vehemently. “No―the Debbie thing was a fluke, and I know Miranda well enough to know that I’m not gonna get out of her sight, but that actually makes me feel better.” She smiled, but he still felt her holding something back.
“You are not afraid?” he asked to confirm.
“Nope,” she repeated.
“And you are not hurt?”
“No,” she said confused, now tilting her head and giving him a look. “Why?”
He looked down and then back into her eyes, “You are keeping something from me, my love.” He smirked a bit. “And I am trying to let you keep it.”
She grinned and popped his arm. “Fine―I am keeping something from you, but you’ll know tonight―okay?”
He nodded slowly and then smirked again. “Agreeable―as long as you are not hurt nor frightened nor in danger, I can be patient, and you can reveal your secrets to me in your own time.” He gave her a little tickle.
“Hey,” she said backing up a bit. “Not fair―I’m still not a hundred percent awake. You can’t just be tickling me!”
He chuckled. “Always rules with you, Miss Stackhouse. Rules, rules, rules,” he said with an exasperated air. His expression then turned more serious. “Sookie, in addition to Miranda being with you when you are at work, I have asked Jesus to be at Merlotte’s during your shifts as well.”
“But Eric,” Sookie began.
Eric raised his hands as if in surrender. “I know that you do not want to be smothered, min kära, and I am trying, but Jesus has agreed to work for me, and he can take some books to Merlotte’s and read them during your shifts as well as he could work from home. I have started an account with the shifter so that all of Jesus’s food will be taken care of as well, so he will not have to worry about his meals.” Eric paused, “And he can help Miranda if there is trouble.”
Sookie sighed. “Fine. Did you do anything else?” Her eyes took in his sharply.
Eric nodded slightly, “I have simply asked Sam to make sure that either he or Lafayette is always there when you are working as well.”
Sookie sighed louder; knowing that her shift that day would likely be last anyway, she decided not to argue. She knew that Eric was just trying to protect her, after all, and how could she fault him for that? “Fine,” she said. “I guess that’s not bad, considering what happened last week.”
Sookie could feel a jolt of anxiety rush through the bond at the mention of the events of the previous week. She reached out to comfort Eric, raising her hand to his cheek. “I’m gonna take a shower now and then get some breakfast.” She reached for her robe at the end of the bed. As she got up and moved toward the bathroom, she turned around, “And vampire, don’t call up Miranda or Jarod to make me breakfast today.”
He chuckled, “Unnecessary, min kära. Jarod has already made a batch of oatmeal, and there is plenty left for you.”
She put her hands on his hips. “And when did you arrange for that one, Northman?”
He shook his head and chuckled in mock evilness, “I didn’t. My minions are now so conditioned to follow my will that they do so without my even asking.” He rubbed his hands together in glee.
She rolled her eyes and went in to take her shower.
Sookie quickly put on her Merlotte’s uniform for what might be the last time. She sighed; her feelings were mixed. On the one hand, the thought of going to school and traveling the world with Eric made her very excited. She also wondered what new business ventures Eric would pursue. Could they do something together? The world seemed so full of possibilities.
Yet she was still a bit frightened. She was moving beyond everything she’d ever known. Merlotte’s had been “safe.” Certainly, it had placed demands on her telepathy, but the work had been something that she’d easily learned and done well.
And the thought of not working for Sam also saddened her. He might not be the love of her life; that honor was reserved for the vampire in the next room, but Sam had hired her despite the rumors about her being crazy. Maybe Sam’s underlying reasoning had been selfish―the desire to have someone as ‘different’ as himself around. But he’d given her a chance when no one else had.
In addition, she wasn’t going to lie to herself. There was a time when she was very grateful to Sam for the fact that he was attracted to her. And even though he’d not acted on that attraction in time, the fact that it had been there―that someone had wanted her for more than just a cheap screw, despite her supposed-craziness―had meant something to her. It had meant a lot actually.
Sookie put her hair into a pony tail and then slipped the necklace Eric had carved for her over her head. Before tucking it into her shirt and next to her heart, she thumbed it affectionately. She could feel the love she had for Eric flowing like warm bath water through their bond, and in the next second he was behind her, capturing her eyes with his through the reflection of the mirror.
He was completely naked except for the necklace around his own neck, and Sookie couldn’t help her sharp intake of breath.
He said nothing. He simply moved closer until he was right behind her; he bent down and kissed her neck, still holding her eyes. She could feel his love for her through their two bonds―enveloping her, caressing her with emotion. She smiled at the Eric in the mirror and then turned around to smile at the real one. She raised herself up on her tiptoes and kissed his neck before pulling herself into his chest.
“I feel the sun pulling me to my sleep, min kära,” Eric said softly as he brought up his hands to stroke the smoothed hair leading to her ponytail.
Sookie nodded, “And I better go down and eat breakfast.”
Eric steeled himself, “Be safe, min kván.” He was having to make a huge effort to let her go. Truth be told, he’d been forcing himself to stay awake for a while now, dreading that moment when she would once again be away from his side.
Sookie felt his anxiety through the bond, but didn’t comment on it. She didn’t need to. As much as Eric had opened up to her about his desires, hopes, and fears, she intuited that the vampire—or maybe it was the Viking—in him needed to be quiet in that moment. “I will stay safe.” She looked up at him. “And I’ll see you before you know it.”
He kissed her lips gently, “Never soon enough.”
Their lips ghosted together for several moments savoring the teasing touches. To both of them, the moment felt stolen―stolen from the day itself.
Finally, Eric steeled himself again and pulled away.
Sookie looked up at him and then grinned, “Let me tuck you in, cowboy.”
He returned her grin. “I do not think I have been tucked in since I was a young boy, sick in my bed.”
“Well―then you are overdue, vampire.” She settled her hands on either side of his slender waist. The V-shaped muscles she found there made ideal hand rests, and she had to force herself not to get distracted by the naked, perfectly formed man in front of her.
Feeling her spike of lust through the vampire bond, he smirked down at her. “Must you really go to work?” he asked naughtily. “Surely, Merlotte will understand if you are running a little late. I can wait to go to sleep if you’d like to,” he paused, “go back to bed with me.”
She chuckled and brought one hand up to spank his bare bottom. “To bed with you, vampire!” she laughed.
He pulled her to him and gave her a toe-curling―and, much to her chagrin, a panty-soaking―kiss. Scenting her arousal, he pulled back, “Are you certain you won’t join me, wife?” His voice was sex itself, though his eyes were smiling.
She spanked him again and growled a bit. “You are a 6 foot, 4 inch walking, talking temptation, but,” she paused and spanked his butt for a third time as she said ‘but,’ “someone’s gotta bring home the bacon in this household.”
He chuckled, “You are a cruel woman, Stackhouse.”
“I’m your cruel woman, Northman.” And with that, she gave him a quick kiss on the lips and then escorted him to bed, where she tucked both of her boys in. She smiled as both Eric and the kitten were out like lights as soon as they were settled.
“Yep,” Sookie thought to herself, “staying around home for a while seems just perfect.”