Hunter then turned and looked at Eric. “I’m ready to go home now, Daddy.”
Eric nodded to his son. “Then we will go home, min son.”
A jolt of concern flowed into the bond from Sookie, but Eric tried to meet it with comfort.
Hunter smiled at his daddy, “Mommy’s gonna be okay here. She’s gonna be safe here. And I can visit her soon with Aunt Sookie and you. And we’ll make the rocking chair. And Uncle Claude’s gonna stay here and then come get the chair when it’s all done.”
“That’s all very good, min son,” Eric said quietly as he bent down to kiss Hunter’s forehead.
Sookie looked at Eric and then at Niall with worry. “What will happen when they go back? It’s day time there now—right?”
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “For fifty-seven minutes now.”
Eric looked at Niall, and the fairy shrugged a bit. “It would likely be okay if we get you inside immediately. The sun in your realm did not promise to be strong today.”
“Can you—uh—pop them right into the house?” Sookie asked nervously.
Niall shook his head. “We cannot go into a dwelling, but we can get nearer to it than before.”
Sookie’s anxiety now flooded the bond, and Eric’s attempts to still it were no longer working.
“Hunter, honey,” Sookie said with a smile barely covering up her worry, “why don’t you go and talk to your momma and Uncle Claude a minute while your daddy, grandpa, and I talk.
“Grown-up stuff?” Hunter asked with the tiniest hint of a smirk—Eric’s smirk.
That look made Sookie smile sincerely, especially when she felt her husband’s pride in his son surging. She reached over and hugged Hunter to her.
“Yep,” Sookie said, unconsciously tousling his hair. “You need a haircut,” she said lightly.
“He always does,” Eric said, squeezing his wife’s hand.
Hunter giggled and then went over to Hadley, who wrapped him up in a warm hug. Sookie could tell that the weight of a mountain had been lifted off of both of their backs, and she was happy for them.
She didn’t bask in that happiness, however. She turned her attention back toward Eric, her concern immediately flowing back into the bond and onto her face.
“I have had much of your blood this night, my love,” Eric whispered to her. “I’ll be fine.”
Sookie whispered back, “But you have also been here much longer than you should, and it’s not night there anymore. I can feel you tryin’ to pull away a little. I’ve been keepin’ hold of you for a while now—just in case—but it’s startin’ to get a little harder. And that means that the fairy blood is wearing off.”
Eric smiled, trying to deflect her fears, “I knew you could keep me here if you wanted.”
Sookie wasn’t accepting his deflections, and she gave him a stern look. “Don’t be makin’ light of this, Viking. It’s gettin’ harder to hold you here, and I’m not gonna risk you burnin’ once you get back there! I can’t risk Hunter seein’ that—not even a little bit! And you are probably gonna be holdin’ him, and I’m not riskin’ him gettin’ hurt. So you are gonna feed before you go.”
Eric looked at Niall, who nodded. “I agree with my great-granddaughter, young Eric,” he said quietly. “I can feel the magic in you draining. If Sookie was not somehow holding you here, you would have already been taken back to your realm. I think you would be fine for a few minutes, but it is best not to take any chances.”
Eric sighed, knowing that taking more blood from his bonded would leave her weaker.
Niall spoke up. “Sookie and I will rest here today by the pool before we go into Faerie, but your taking more blood from her is the only way—unless you will take it from me.”
Sookie’s eyes blazed and she stepped in front of Eric territorially. Both Eric and Sookie had unconsciously begun to growl.
Niall chuckled. “I guess not.” He winked at them as they both relaxed. “That leaves you with only one choice. Any minute, you might be pulled back to the human realm. I do not know how she has kept you here for this long without greater effort, but she will begin to strain, and without more fairy blood in your system, you could,” he stopped.
Sookie did the math in her head. It looked like she would be using pretty much all of the three days that the A.P. had given her before she would have to go into the fairy realm, but if that was what it would take to keep Eric safe, so be it.
Eric relented and looked at Hunter, who had perceptively picked up that something was wrong, despite their lowered voices, and was now looking at them again.
Eric spoke in a soothing voice. “Son, I’m going to go back to the tent with your aunt Sookie for a few minutes to say goodbye, and then we’ll take off, okay?”
Hunter nodded nervously. “Is everything okay, Daddy?”
“Yes—you should say your farewells to your mother, Claude, and Niall. When we get home, we’ll probably have to zip inside real fast, okay?”
“Eric,” Sookie whispered, as she felt the hold she had on him in the bond slip a bit. Eric sensed her urgency and followed her to the tent quickly. She raised her wrist.
He growled, “I do not like doing it this way. I want to take your blood properly when I take it.” His voice was a throaty mix of frustration and lust.
“Bite, you crazy Viking,” Sookie chastised, her own voice a mixture of half-fear that he’d go jolting back to the human realm too soon and half-amusement that he was thinking about sex even then.
Eric followed her command and bit into her silky flesh gently. As soon as he took a few sips of her blood, she felt him reconnecting to her without her having to actively hold him there. She sighed with relief. He raised his wrist to her mouth.
“You too,” he growled between small sips.
“But you need your strength,” Sookie insisted.
He licked at her wound so that no drop was spilled and said quickly. “I need your blood. My strength is not the problem. Yours is, and my blood will help you. Take it, woman!”
She felt mirth and concern through the bond and smiled, even as she rolled her eyes. She bit into his wrist with her blunt teeth, so she drew only a trickle of his blood. Enflamed by even that, Eric quickly bit into his own flesh where she’d started the wound, so that his blood would run freely. Then he went back to her blood, lapping and luxuriating in it.
“Eric,” Sookie moaned into his wrist as their newest exchange once again fed the bonds between them—and their love.
“Sookie,” Eric crooned as he felt her blood and the bond ignite with smoldering lust. They were both doing everything they could to grind into each other, but it was difficult through their clothing. Finally, Eric pulled away from her wrist and watched it heal before him due to his blood that was traveling into her body at the same time.
Eric moaned as she continued drinking greedily. “Fuck, Sookie. Fuck it!” He quickly ripped open his jeans so that he could release his enflamed cock. He pulled up her dress and picked her up, causing her to moan in protest as her mouth slipped from his wrist.
“My greedy fairy,” he said in a rush before impaling her ready core with his cock.
“Eric,” she groaned as one form of satisfaction replaced the other.
She pulled her dress over her head, even as he began to pound into her roughly. The erotic feeling of having him almost entirely clothed even as she was naked made her yell out in pleasure. She wrapped her legs around his jean-clad ass and her arms around his neck, finding what flesh she could over the top of his leather jacket. “Eric,” she squealed again as he moved faster and harder, dragging the tip of his cock against her G-spot with each thrust upward. “Yes! More. More.”
Eric kissed her possessively and then moved his lips to her ear. “Tomorrow, min kván, you will be feeling sore from this,” he whispered urgently and hungrily as he went harder.
“Eric,” Sookie breathed. “Mark me—please.”
Her words caused him to drive into her even more forcefully, and then he plunged his still extended fangs into her neck, sending them both to their releases. He didn’t take much of her blood this time—only drops because of the precision of his bite―but he stayed attached to her, savoring each and every one of those fucking drops.
“Jeez,” she giggled as he pulled out of her—both cock and fang—and set her carefully onto the ground, making sure she was stable on her feet. She looked down at her shaky legs and was pretty sure that she’d be a bit bowlegged for the next few days—not that she minded at all.
Eric assessed his mate automatically. She was breathing heavily, and he could tell that her blood count was a bit low even with the fresh infusion of his blood, but he knew it would be back to normal in a day or less. He listened to her heart rate and sniffed to make sure he’d not wounded her in his passion to be deep inside of her.
She smacked him on the chest. “Stop that, vampire. I’m okay.”
Eric narrowed his eyes and smirked. “Tell me you weren’t just checking the strength of our connection. Tell me you weren’t trying to figure out if I’d taken enough of your blood to move safely through the daylight when I go home.” He paused as she bit her lip guiltily. “Tell me you were doing neither of those things, my beautiful wife, and I will stop checking on you.”
“Fine,” she said with a crooked smile. “We can check on each other—just as long as we remember that Sookie is not gonna break just because she gets lucky or because she feeds her man.”
“Agreed,” Eric chuckled before looking down at the state of his jeans. The button and zipper had been literally ripped apart.
Sookie shook her head and bent down to pick up the linen-like pants he’d had on earlier. He growled at the sight of her beautiful bare ass as she did.
She turned around slowly—teasingly—and held up the pants.
He bent down and scooped her into a kiss. By instinct, he scraped his tongue again his right fang, just as Sookie—also by instinct—cut her own tongue with his left. The taste of their mingling blood drew groans from them both. Within moments, however, the kiss went from passionate and wanting to soft and comforting.
They knew that there wasn’t time for them to join again, so they simply tasted each other and enjoyed the flood of love that poured into their bonds along with their blood.
“Teach me one more before we have to part?” Sookie asked softly when they finally broke their kiss.
“Mwen renmen ou, Sookie,” Eric whispered. [“I love you, Sookie.”]
“That’s beautiful,” she sighed. “What is it?”
“Creole,” he said. “Haitian Creole.”
They held each other for a few more moments, and then she held up the pants.
“Here—you should put these on, and put that away.” She gestured toward his still looming penis. “As much as I wish you didn’t have to, you need to get home, and the sooner, the better.”
Eric reluctantly stripped off his ruined jeans and then redressed, knowing that his wife was right. She bent over again and picked up her dress. He grabbed her wrist. “What?” she asked.
Eric smiled like the devil himself. “You got another one of those dresses in here?”
“Why?” Sookie asked.
“Because I would like to take this one.” He ran his fingers over hers and then over the fabric of the garment. He inhaled deeply. “This fabric will carry your scent—our scent—for a long time.”
Sookie blushed but then handed him the dress before picking up a clean one from the corner of the room. Eric tucked the garment into his jacket and then zipped it up.
She slipped her new dress over her head and then slipped back into his arms. “Saying goodbye to you once was hard enough,” she said sadly.
Sookie felt Eric soothing her through the bond, “Remember—it will be only the day after tomorrow when we see each other.”
“For me—yes. But so much longer for you, Eric” she said gloomily.
“I will wait,” he said with a small, though sincere and beautiful smile.
“I know. I just wish you didn’t have to,” she said as she stroked his chest.
He kissed her forehead and touched the pendant he’d carved for her; the intertwined “E” and “S” rested over her heart.
“The knot on the necklace is holding this time,” Sookie said, even as she thumbed the ring that she’d gotten for him to symbolize their pledging. She traced the knots etched in it with her fingernail.
“It was made to hold, min kära. It was made to hold forever.”
“I love you, Eric. So much.”
“As I love you, min Sookie.” He sighed and rested his forehead against hers. “I will miss you every minute you are not with me. But you must not think about that. You must concentrate on becoming stronger. Hunter and I need you home, min kära. But we also need you safe and strong.”
A tear dropped down her cheek. “I promise I’ll take as little time as I can.”
“I know,” Eric said.
“And you promise that you will be there when I get back—that you won’t get yourself killed. Promise me that you’ll stay safe until I can come to you.”
“I have much to stay safe for,” he said gently. “And I know you will be there when I am in need of you, min kván. You always have been.”
Sookie rose up onto her tiptoes and kissed him chastely on the lips. She pushed her tears from her eyes and then grabbed his hand before leading him out of the tent.
Niall looked at the couple a little too knowingly for Sookie’s comfort as he took in Eric’s change of attire. She blushed; of course, Eric wasn’t bothered in the least, which earned him a pop from Sookie.
Love jolted through the bond because of that pop—love and longing. She squeezed her mate’s hand and sent those emotions back to him.
Hunter was talking quietly to his mother and Claude and then looked up at Eric with a smile.
“Daddy, you put back on your comfy pants.”
“Yep,” Eric said, still gripping Sookie’s hand tightly as he had before the first time he’d left. Doing it a second time was going to be just as difficult—if not more so. Yet he managed to answer Hunter evenly, “You ought to take yours back too. They will be nice pants to use when we practice our swordplay, and they will remind you of your visit when you wear them.”
“Can I?” Hunter asked Hadley. She looked to Claude who nodded and quickly retrieved the folded pair of trousers.
Eric looked at Hadley and bowed. “Hadley, Hunter will be seeing you soon after Sookie returns to us. And we will make the rocking chair for you and his new sister a priority.”
“That’s right,” Hunter agreed enthusiastically, hugging his mother one last time before gravitating toward his father.
Hadley smiled brightly, though Eric could smell that her tears were close. “I’ll see you soon, Hunt.”
Hunter looked at Eric and Sookie’s joined hands and quickly hugged his aunt. “Hurry up and get home, Aunt Sookie. Daddy misses you—okay?”
Sookie squeezed him with her one free arm and then sent a wave of love and strength to Eric before tearing her hand from his. Immediately, Hunter raised his arms asking to be picked up, and Eric complied.
Niall smiled and motioned for Claude to join them by the pool. Batanya, who had taken in the events of the night with more emotion than she was used to—or comfortable with—also came closer to the little group. She glared briefly at Hadley. Had the mother hurt the child irrevocably, Batanya wasn’t sure what she would have done, but she felt certain it would have started a war between Britlingens and the Fae. It was just as well, Batanya thought, that the Northman was able to fix the problem.
Sookie and Hadley stepped back from the pool a little.
“See you soon, Mommy and Aunt Sookie. Love you,” Hunter said as he clasped one arm around Eric’s neck tighter so he could reach out toward Claude with his other.
Eric and Sookie’s eyes were attached to each other, and the vampire bond was full of longing—but also full of hope—from both sides. Sookie once again had to stifle her urge to just run to Eric and go with him. She felt her magic rising—rising in her need to protect him. She used that magic to surround the fairy bond inside of him with white healing light—a whole heap of it—so that he would be protected from the sun. She prayed that her magic would work in conjunction with her blood to keep him safe. And then for good measure she sent a few blasts of her own strength into him.
Eric accepted his wife’s love and gifts as he always did—with awe and a certain amount of disbelief that she had chosen him.
Neither Eric nor Sookie said a word as Niall gave Eric a little smile of reassurance and lifted his hand. Eric saw that smile and movement only out of his periphery, but the vampire removed one of his hands from Hunter’s back and took the fairy’s offered grip so that he and his son could get home.
And with that, Eric was gone.
With Hunter no longer there, Sookie did what she’d wanted to do the first time when Eric had left with Niall—she fell to her knees and cried. She registered that Hadley was next to her and crying with her.
“Stay alive, min bóndi. Please,” she whispered.