By the time the second quarter of the game was half over, the group was no longer watching. The Browns were playing very badly, and the game was doing little to catch their interest. Coby and Jason were both listening with rapture to stories of Eric’s Viking days. And Sookie was talking to Arlene and Luna about her plans for beginning college. The boys had gone to play pool, along with Miranda and Jarod, and Lisa was trailing Miranda like a fan-girl, much to the Werelioness’s displeasure and Jarod’s amusement. Jarod had begun sending texts to Pam as well as pictures clearly showing Miranda’s discomfort.
Tray was in a conversation with Terry about the mechanics of motorcycles. Every once in a while, Arlene would give Terry a dirty look, and a few times, she even said out loud to no one in particular that, “Daddies shouldn’t ride motorcycles.”
Through all of this, and despite the fact that their bodies had separated, Eric kept hold of Sookie’s hand and she his―as if those invisible magnets that seemed to draw them together wouldn’t let them pull apart. Suddenly, Eric squeezed Sookie’s hand lightly, and she could feel tension enter the bond. About twenty seconds later, Tray tensed as well, and Miranda and Jarod left the pool table to retake their seats. Sensing potential trouble, Jesus led Lafayette back to the table as well. Feeling the change in mood around her, Luna looked at Sam with curiosity.
Sookie didn’t really need to ask what was happening. Still, she looked up at Eric, “Bill?”
He subtly nodded once as he received a text from Pam. He smiled and then quickly showed his phone to Sookie. Pam’s text read simply, “His new strategy: make Sookie jealous―LMFAO!”
Sookie snorted softly and gripped Eric’s hand tighter. He brought hers up to his lips and brushed a gentle kiss along her wrist.
A few seconds later, the king of Louisiana walked in the door; on his arm was a pretty brunette woman—no, a gorgeous woman. Sookie noticed immediately that the woman was taller than she was, more conventionally beautiful than she was, and definitely more expensively dressed than she was—given the fact that she was still in her Merlotte’s uniform with only a green cardigan thrown over her T-shirt. Sookie looked up at Eric. She couldn’t help her smile; from her bond with her husband, she felt annoyance at Bill rather than any kind of attraction for the modelesque beauty on the king’s arm. Once again, she was floored by her husband’s love for her, and she sent some back to him. He looked down at her with a sly smile.
“Tom Brady has nothing on you, min bóndi,” she said quietly.
Meanwhile, Bill was sauntering across the room like a rooster with the prize hen. Jason whistled a bit, and Sookie couldn’t help but to chuckle at her brother. The woman was striking; Sookie had to admit that.
Bill zeroed in on the group and walked over. “Well hello, Sookie,” he said politely. “It is pleasant to see you again so soon. Sheriff,” he nodded gruffly to Eric. He spared a quick glance for the others at the table before looking back at Sookie and continuing, “Sookie, have you met Selah Pumphrey? She is the most successful real-estate saleswoman in the parish.”
“Actually, the third most successful in the state,” Selah added with a false laugh.
Sookie quickly read Selah’s thoughts and noticed a striking similarity between them and Portia Bellefleur’s. Both women thought they were better than the people around them. And both women knew that Bill and Sookie used to be an item. Selah was assessing Sookie like a rival might, and in a moment, she had judged Sookie as inferior in all the ways that she thought really mattered. Despite this, Sookie extended her hand to the beautiful brunette. “Miss Pumphrey―hello. I don’t think we have met. I’m Sookie Stackhouse, and this here,” she gestured toward Eric, “is my husband, Eric Northman.”
The brunette took in the man sitting next to Sookie fully for the first time, and she couldn’t help but to catch her breath, causing Bill to shift a bit awkwardly next her. Sookie chuckled slightly, thinking that Selah’s reaction to Eric served Bill right. She wondered if Bill would ever learn that he ought not to bring his dates around Eric. She squeezed Eric’s hand and stifled another giggle.
“I’m Jason Stackhouse,” Jason piped up, extending his hand to Selah and holding hers a tad too long as he tried to give her his bedroom eyes. “I’m a deputy sheriff here in Bon Temps,” he added proudly, puffing himself up.
Sookie smiled at Jason’s manner and then stiffened when she heard Selah’s less than charitable thoughts about her brother. She sat up straighter―as did Eric. He felt the fire rise in his beloved, and―as always―he was just happy to be in the front row when it did.
“Well Selah,” Sookie started, her voice saccharin sweet, “it was so nice to meet you. Now―don’t you and Bill just make a perfect pair.” She smiled her fake smile at Bill as well. “And it looks like you are on a date too, so please don’t let us keep you.” She spared one last Merlotte’s smile for Selah and then turned to pick back up her previous conversation with Arlene.
“Bill,” Eric said with a curt nod. The tone of finality was clear in his voice. “Enjoy your evening,” and with that he kissed Sookie on the cheek and winked at Selah, causing a deep blush to break out on the brunette’s face. Out of the corner of her eye, Sookie saw Selah’s blush and felt Eric’s mirth through the bond. She returned that playfulness and quickly turned around to give her husband a peck on the lips. Eric didn’t let her get away so quickly, however, and planted a toe-curling kiss on her mouth before he casually turned back to Coby and resumed their conversation about Viking ships.
“Da-yum,” Arlene said under her breath as Sookie reddened and turned back to the women she’d been talking to.
“Don’t even get me started on that one,” Sookie giggled to Arlene and Luna as she gestured back toward Eric. That kiss had pretty much made her forget that Bill was even standing there.
Bill reminded her by clearing his throat, “Well—we will take our leave then, Sookie.”
She looked up at him. “Have a great night,” she said politely.
As Bill turned to escort Selah to a table, Eric squeezed Sookie’s hand, his mirth still clear in the bond. She giggled and then started talking to Arlene about planning a girls’ night.
Terry and Tray had turned their discussion to fishing, and Jason had joined them in it, arguing with them about the best kind of bait to use at that time of year. Terry looked at Eric, “Do you ever go fishin’?”
Eric chuckled, “I haven’t fished for many, many years—probably because I haven’t eaten human food for many, many years.”
“Well you don’t go fishin’ just for food,” Terry said passionately. The Iraqi vet nodded as if reaching a decision. “We should all go sometime. After all, you have a woman you can feed now.”
Sookie looked at Eric with interest, waiting for his response just as much as the men he was speaking to were waiting for it.
“Ah,” Eric voiced, “a men’s night out. Yes―I think that I would like to go fishing again sometime. In my human days, I had quite a talent for it. We constructed our hooking devices out of carved wood and small pieces of iron. I imagine that you can buy such devices today?”
“Hell yeah,” Terry said. “Or you can borrow some of my gear.”
“Yes―we should make a plan to do this.” Eric grinned and brought Sookie’s hand to his lips again. “In this way, I can provide food for my woman. This was one of the jobs of the husbands during my human time as well.”
Sookie rolled her eyes but smiled widely.
“Cool,” Coby said. “Can I go too?” His question should have been directed toward Terry, but he was looking at Eric as he asked it.
“I have no problem including you, little human. After all, manhood began in my time at roughly your age; however, ultimately, the decision is up to your parents. It would have to be night fishing, after all,” Eric said.
“Sure, Coby,” Terry said. “We’ll fish, and the ladies can shop.”
“I will fish too,” Miranda said sternly, joining the conversation after sending another text to Pam. “I do not enjoy shopping.”
Lafayette added, “And I don’t fish.”
“All right,” Terry said, not missing a beat. “Some of us will fish, and others will shop.”
Eric liked the veteran sitting across the table from him even more in that moment; he certainly knew how to go with the flow.
Ten minutes later, tentative plans had been made for both fishing and shopping excursions, and Pam had texted to inform Sookie that she would be leading the shoppers.
Suddenly, Sookie felt a wave of amusement flow through the bond from Eric. She looked at him questioningly. He whispered, “Just watch the door. This should be funny.”
About thirty seconds later, Bubba entered, with a very serious-looking Thalia on his arm. The short, but deadly vampiress was dressed in jet black from her leather jacket all the way to her boots. The only things of any other color on her body were, in fact, the very edges of her boots, which seemed to be tipped in silver.
Sookie managed to contain her snicker at Bubba’s appearance―but barely. He was wearing what Sookie could only label as a cheesy-looking disguise, complete with blond wig and ‘70s mustache.
The new pair walked over to the table, and Eric gave Jesus, Lafayette, and especially Jason a warning glance before he spoke. “Bubba, Thalia―how nice of you to join us.” He went around the table introducing Bubba and Thalia to the people they didn’t know. Jason responded to Bubba’s disguise with a tact that seemed beyond him, but Jesus had to squeeze Lafayette’s hand several times to keep him from commenting. The others at the table―except for Luna, who gave Sam a questioning glance, which he answered with a smile and a shrug―seemed oblivious to the fact that the ‘king’ had just joined them.
Another comfortable thirty minutes had gone by when Eric received a text from Pam. He quickly checked his phone. Immediately, Sookie felt frustration through the bond. She looked at Eric questioningly.
He spoke to the table, “If you will excuse me, I have a bit of business that I must see to for a few moments.” As he got up, he felt some disappointment from Sookie―not that he was leaving, but that he was leaving without her.
He immediately sent her reassurance as he reached out his hand to her, “Shall we, min kära?”
She took his offered hand and stood up with a smile. “I thought you needed to take care of business.”
“Yes,” he whispered to her, “but this is not something that would need to be kept from you, my love. In fact, I crave your help.”
He looked at Tray, “Dawson, would you join us for a few moments?”
Noticing the serious expression on Eric’s face, Tray rose, “Sure.”
As the group passed the bar Sam had returned to a few minutes before, Eric asked for silent permission to once again use his office, which the shifter granted with a nod.
Once they were all inside the office with the door closed, Tray was the first to speak. “What’s happened?”
Eric grasped Sookie’s hand in his, “A vampire has taken blood from a Werewolf this evening―one who did not consent to be drunk from.”