Eric landed outside the cabin and quickly assessed the surroundings. There were no fresh scents other than the wild animals in the area. He unlocked the door and looked around. The house was dusty since no one had been there for almost a year.
As soon as he entered, Eric immediately felt much better. Sookie’s scent lingered all around the cabin like a moment trapped in time. If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine his wife was merely in another room and would soon come to him.
Eric quickly built a fire and arranged a pallet on the living room floor. He sat down amidst the blankets, all of which were still infused with Sookie’s scent.
It was seven hours and thirty three minutes since he’d awoken that night. Then—he had felt only emptiness and despair. But now he felt different—better. Hunter had made him feel better. Hell—even Niall had helped. His son had offered him the unconditional love of a child. And Niall made him realize that the bonds between Sookie and himself—as wonderful and glorious as they were—were also not the reason or the root of his love for her. No—Eric needed to focus on the love between Sookie and himself. He had to have faith in that love.
However, all that was easier said than done.
Eric chuckled. Sookie had once called him a ‘control freak’ when he’d been unable to properly cook the noodles for a dish she was making. She’d looked on in mirth as he had reread and then blamed the directions, blamed the noodles, blamed the cooking apparatus, blamed the pH balance of the tap water, and blamed the elevation and boiling point—in that order. She’d laughed at his antics, walked up to him amidst his frustration, kissed him squarely on the lips for several seconds, turned off her own pot of pasta sauce, dragged him up to their bed, and screwed his brains out—almost literally. When she was done with him, she had calmly gone back downstairs, combined the undercooked pasta to the sauce, and ‘nuked’ them both. Then they had played footsy underneath the table as she’d eaten with a big smile on her face. That is when she had called him a ‘control freak.’ And she was right; he hated when he could not fully control a situation. But—true to form—Sookie had taught him humility without humbling him.
Eric sighed deeply as he thought of his wife. God, he missed her.
After he’d lost the feeling from the fairy bond, a large part of him had wanted to meet the sun. Pam had feared that this would be the occasion for him to follow through with that inclination. But he’d never intended to kill himself that night―or morning, rather. He was being honest with Pam when he told her that he wouldn’t leave her without saying goodbye.
In truth, as morbid as it sounded, he had formed a plan to take his own life if he ever discovered that Sookie was truly dead and there was no chance of being reunited with her on this plane; however, he would have told his vampire child of it. He would have conferred with her and made sure everyone in the household was taken care of. In others words, he would not have simply gone up to a roof and ended himself without saying a word to her in advance.
If he did decide to meet his true death, he had a plan for sparing his human child of the effects of his demise as well. However, those plans would only go into effect if he became certain that his wife was truly gone. After that, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to face an eternity as vampire without her—neither mentally nor physically. No, he would seek out her soul—so to speak—before the bonding sickness slowly eroded his body.
Eric’s intention in coming to the cabin that night had been to make an effort to recharge himself for his children and the others who counted on him. He needed to surround himself with Sookie in the only way that he could at the moment―with his senses.
The farmhouse still contained a few lingering scents of her, but there were so many people there, overlaying her smell. And the renovations had also taken much of her scent away. Only in the old closet, among the clothing in her drawers, and in the old afghan did her smell still persist, and even that, with time, was fading away.
More importantly, the cabin afforded him the luxury of smelling only the two of them together. Here, Sookie’s scent was closed off from the world and would last longer. Here, it was only for him.
Eric closed his eyes. In many ways, he felt rather pathetic―needing to come to the cabin in order to strengthen himself and to ensure that he didn’t run headlong into the sunlight one morning. However, the promise of giving himself this night with Sookie’s scent on their anniversary had been a reward that he knew he would stay alive for, so he’d planned to come here months before―right after Claudette had taken away the feeling within the fairy bond. This was his prize.
Eric lay down on the pallet. His hands reached emptily into the air above him as he thought about Sookie and imagined her there with him. For the rest of the night, he didn’t allow himself to think about what might be happening to her in the fairy realm. He didn’t allow in the possibility that she might be dead. He didn’t let the ‘what if’s’ torture him.
No. That night—with Sookie’s scent flooding his senses—he thought only of his wife alive and with him. He allowed his memories to float around him and flood the cabin right along with her scent.
She was in front of him at Fangtasia, meeting him in her pretty white dress with the red flowers. It was the first time he’d seen her fire—the first time he’d been stirred by someone in many, many centuries.
She was negotiating with him when she came to read the humans in his employ, looking up at him with strength and defiance. He chuckled as his hands traced the empty air. The little vixen had unwittingly made him fall in love with her that night. He had been fucking powerless to resist her—not that he’d ever really wanted to.
She was standing before him defiantly—again—after having just slapped him; she was wearing only his red T-shirt. Once again, she’d been negotiating with him. Once again, the fire in her had slayed him.
She was pulling the chains off of him in the Fellowship of the Sun church after having run to him, despite Bill’s protests. There was urgency and care for him in her eyes, and that was before a single drop of blood had passed between them. He smiled wider at that thought.
She was on the roof in Dallas with him, reaching for his hand and telling him she’d stay with his maker for as long as it took for him to die. She was caring for him in that moment—trying even to heal him—despite the fact that she was angry about the blood trick.
She was standing before him in lavender, trying not to look at his naked body. Again, her fire raged and her courage was unmatched.
She was in Fangtasia telling him about the tattoo she’d discovered on one of Bill’s abductors. She was trusting him to help her even though she still thought she loved another. And he was—in his inept way—trying to tell her how important she was.
They were on her porch, and he was―again, in his clumsy way―telling her that he cared for her. He’d begun opening himself up to her that night.
They were in Russell’s mansion. She was looking at him with hurt eyes when he lied about not caring for her. He now knew that was the moment she’d truly fallen in love with him.
They were in his office at Fangtasia, and she was responding to his kiss―responding with equal longing to his own.
They were in the parking lot of Fangtasia, and he was burning. But she had come for him. She pulled him into the bar. She healed him with her blood.
He was in his day rest and felt her come back to this realm after her first stay in the fairy world. She’d come back to him.
They were in her house, and he’d just caught her towel. It had been the first time he’d seen her fully naked. She’d been the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen―just as he’d known she would be.
She was stopping her car along the roadside while he ran in the night. He’d smelled her before he’d seen her—just as he could smell her now. He’d never had a chance to tell Sookie, but he’d really almost bitten her dry that first night of his amnesia. Even now, he didn’t know why he hadn’t. His vampire instinct had been to taste her. He could tell that his blood was inside of her, and everything in his memory-less mind had told him that she was his. He’d run after her when she’d tried to run away. He was the predator; she was his prey, and he’d reveled in the sensation of the chase. She’d been weaker―human―and the one thing he did know was that he was vampire. He could have drained her, and she would not have been able to stop him―or at least he hadn’t thought she’d be able to. He’d remembered nothing about her “zapping” abilities at the time.
But―he hadn’t attacked her; he’d controlled his urge to bite as something even deeper than his vampire nature made him want to avoid hurting the woman in front of him at all costs.
And then, history had fucking repeated itself. He’d fallen in love with Sookie for the same damned reason as before: her fire. When he’d gotten too close to her―of course―she’d hit him―hit him hard for a human―right in the nose. Eric brought his hand down from empty air to his nose unconsciously as he remembered her blow.
Someone had taught her to hit efficiently―probably Tara, he posited with a chuckle―because Sookie’s hand had received only a minor bruise from the blow. And that was it; that hit to the nose and the flash of her fire had sealed the deal—so to speak. For the second time, he’d fallen in love with her, despite the fact that he didn’t even know her name—or his own for that matter.
From that moment on, he’d wanted only to be close to her, and he fought his vampire instincts in order not to bite her or hurt her in any way. That night he’d known that Pam had his blood―had known it with his vampire instincts―but he would have killed her if she’d really threatened Sookie. To this day, the only way Eric could explain his reaction was to call it primal: one soul recognizing and protecting its mate. It seemed that primal urge was a much more fundamental part of him than being a vampire. He smiled at that thought as his memories continued.
Sookie was washing his feet when he’d felt so lost and alone. That simple act had been comforting and healing to him.
Sookie was standing by the lakeside, as the sun played on her skin and in her hair, and he saw the concern in her beautiful eyes―concern for him. He didn’t know it at the time, but that moment was the first time he had ever noticed the flecks of green in her eyes, brought out only by the light of the sun. Her eyes had been so beautiful to him. But the concern in them was the most precious part of the memory to him now. Her primal urge―too―had been to protect him.
Sookie was lying in bed asleep―so lovely―after his nighttime vision of Godric, which he was now convinced was his vampire nature warring with his instinct to protect his mate. He was still fighting against it until she awoke, but when he once again saw her worried eyes, his fangs had retracted. Incredibly, she was more concerned about him than about whether he was there to bite her. That was the moment when he knew that the night-dream version of Godric had been wrong. He could never have really hurt her―no matter what he’d done in his vision.
Eric felt her hands on his shoulders and in his hair as she comforted him while he’d cried about Godric. He remembered her holding his hand the rest of the night as he’d waited to return to the cubby. She’d slept peacefully next to him; she’d trusted him. It had been the first night he’d felt her sleeping next to him. He’d traced the rhythm of her heart. He’d felt her breath on his bare neck. Yes―he had definitely already been in love with her again by then.
Sookie was defending him to Tara―insisting that he’d changed―and then he saw the forgiveness in her eyes as they’d sat on the couch and she confirmed that he’d done the things Tara had said.
He closed his eyes tighter, a smile gracing his lips. Sookie was crying out for him not to go—to wait―and she was kissing him so fervently. It had been his first kiss―at least the first he could remember―but it had felt so natural doing it with her. Her lips had fit his like they’d been molded together.
He saw her skin glistening under the full moon when they’d made love for the first time. He remembered sinking into her—giving her his virginity in a sense—but somehow, he’d known what to do because—again—with her, everything simply felt right. No—it felt better than right. From the moment he felt her tightness gripping him for the first time, he knew that he had found his paradise, and a thousand years of memories had not changed that judgment. From the first, their bodies had moved together as if an invisible string were pulling them in unison.
He saw her eyes as she’d agreed to take his blood in the cubby and become one with him.
He saw her climb on top of him and ride him after their first blood exchange as the snow of their shared vision melted on her hot flesh.
He saw her passionate expression as she told him that they needed to fight the witches with Bill―that they couldn’t just run away. The fire and fight in her had once again stirred him.
He saw her eyes when she realized that he had regained his memories due to her magic. He’d seen insecurity in those eyes, and he wanted only to assure her in that moment that he loved her―would love her forever.
As the fire crackled in the hearth of their cabin, he remembered, saw, and felt her in a thousand moments. She was telling him she loved him for the first time. She was telling him that she loved him for the second time―even though their blood bond was gone. She was telling him that she had chosen him. She was sweating under him as they made love—both totally themselves—for the first time. She was laughing at something he said―or better yet, at something she’d said. She was planning their lives with him. She was holding onto his hand, just as tightly as he was grasping hers. She was feeding him out of love and passion. She was taking his blood because of the same reasons. She was squealing in delight over her new kitten. She was insisting about something. She was coming toward him in the red dress she wore the night they were pledged. She was making him squirm and beg for release under her hands. She was hitting his arm playfully. She was stroking the place on his chest over their fairy bond unconsciously after they’d made love. She was tickling his feet. She was bathed by firelight. She was eating the food that he’d prepared for her. She was on Lafayette and Jesus’s porch asking him to carry her to bed. She was everywhere in his life and in his blood. Yes—though he could no longer feel her through their bonds, he could not deny that she was still firmly planted inside of him.
When it was almost dawn, he made sure the fire was out, and then he went into their bedroom. He closed the door behind him, for their shared scent was even stronger in there, and he wanted it to last. He quickly showered, not wanting to take any other odors into their bed. He chuckled. It would be the first time since Hunter had come to live with him that he would sleep in the buff. On his way to bed, he picked up his black shirt that still held so much of Sookie’s essence. He placed it next to him in bed, understanding even as he did it how much Pam would make fun of him because of it.
He didn’t give a fuck.
He needed for his wife to be with him physically as he went to his day sleep on their anniversary, and without the fairy bond or the vampire bond, this was the only way he had left to accomplish that. He snuggled into the shirt and Sookie’s pillow as if he were lying on his wife’s stomach. He imagined her hands stroking his bare shoulders, his back and his hair. He cried. And at dawn, he slept.
When Eric awoke the next night, he kept his eyes closed. Sookie was still all around him, and he wanted to give himself another minute―no, another five minutes―to enjoy her. Then he would face the long night. He’d get dressed and lock up the cabin tightly. He’d go home to his son and the rest of the family that Sookie had been responsible for making for him. He’d work as hard as he could to be a good father and a worthy husband.
He wondered briefly what Sookie would think of his “adoption” of Hunter, but then he realized that he needn’t wonder. She was the one who had put them together, after all. He smiled. She’d known that this would happen; his wonderful, fiery, brilliant fucking wife had absolutely known that he would hold seriously to his promise to take care of Hunter. She had probably even known in that moment―that brief moment when she had asked him to take care of the boy―that he would soon treat him as a son, think of him as his son. No―as his son with Sookie.
Eric shook his head. His thoughts were unfair to Hadley. He could admit that. And in his head, he absolutely knew that Hunter had a mother that was not Sookie. He also knew that mother didn’t really like him and had good reason not to like him.
But his heart―his undead heart―told him that Hunter was like Sookie; he had inherited the traits that made Sookie herself. And the telepathy was only the tip of the iceberg. There was also his innate goodness. There was his willingness to accept everyone around him without judgment, despite the fact that he’d already faced so much judgment in his own short life. And there was that crafty way he had of wrapping Eric right around his little finger—exactly like his Sookie could.
Yes—Hunter was not Sookie’s child, but he was the child that his wife could have had. And Hunter was Eric too. In their year together, Hunter had taken on Eric’s best traits, as if he had gone to a store and chosen only the good things about the vampire to absorb. Hunter was Eric and Sookie’s son―their son that could have been. And he was the best son they could ever hope for—the one that neither had dared to hope for.
Eric sighed when he realized he had only two minutes left to enjoy his wife’s essence.
Things with Hadley would work out; they had to now. Hunter and he were too connected to allow for a separation. Maybe―Hunter could simply have two mothers and one father. The boy was already surrounded by witches, demons, vampires, Weres, shifters, fairies, and humans. What was a little more unconventionality in his life? Eric knew Hunter would take it all in stride.
When he had only one minute left, Eric shut all thoughts from his mind except for Sookie’s eyes―eyes which never really left him, no matter what he was doing. They shined at him in a thousand shades of brown and one shade of beautiful, sunshine-lit green.
His minute over, Eric got up. He moved the now tear-stained black shirt back to its place in the closet and made the bed lovingly as he pictured Sookie lying there. He quickly dressed in fresh clothing and went to the bag he’d brought with him. He pulled out the new toaster inside and set it up on the kitchen counter. The last time he and Sookie had been there, she’d craved toast. Then he pulled out a loaf of bread from the bag. He’d observed from Lafayette that bread would keep longer if it were frozen, so he put it into the freezer. Finally, he pulled out a large pitcher and a box of tea bags. Sookie had only had water to drink at the cabin before, and he knew how much she loved her tea. He stocked these items in the kitchen and then put his clothing from the previous night into the bag.
As he was folding the blankets that had made up his pallet on the living room floor, his phone rang. Recognizing the ringtone, Eric stiffened and answered quickly.
A familiar voice on the line said, “She will see you tonight. She is in Shreveport and will be at your club in forty-five minutes.”
“I’ll be there in an hour,” Eric growled and then hung up the phone. Eric had promised that he would see Hunter tonight after he awoke, and he intended to keep his word to his son.
Moreover, she’d kept him waiting for almost a year. She could now do a little fucking waiting of her own.
Eric grabbed his bag, secured the cabin, and flew home to his son.