Finally, after what seemed like an hour to the vampire, Hunter and Sookie reached Eric at the end of the aisle. He unconsciously reached out to ruffle Hunter’s styled bangs, an action that his son still accepted―even though he’d begun to hint to his daddy that he was getting a bit too old for it. Of course, Hunter was probably the biggest Eric fan in the world―other than Sookie—so he was allowing his daddy to continue that show of affection, at least for the time being.
Though Hunter was officially both Eric and Sookie’s best man, he moved to Eric’s side of the aisle, taking a place right next to Jesus.
As soon as his son had dropped Sookie’s hand, Eric found himself reaching out for it, like it was a life preserver. He needed to feel her flesh on his. Immediately, as he touched her, all of the nerves he’d felt in waiting for her—in anticipating her—were gone. She was already his, after all. And he was hers. And Hunter was theirs.
And those facts—in the end—were why Sookie had opted to walk down the aisle with Hunter, rather than be escorted by Niall or Jason. She needed no one to “give her away”—so to speak. She had done that herself long ago—just as Eric had done the same with her.
The vampire now recognized that his nerves had been readiness—yearning—to be with her. They had not been pangs of doubt; they had been the ache he always felt when he was not close enough to his bonded one. They had been the stirrings that those in love were bound to feel when they were about to see their mates dressed in their finest of garments and coming to them in offering.
And Sookie had come to him—and not just down the aisle of a Shreveport church. She’d come back to him from Faerie. She’d come into the devil’s den to face Russell—for him. But—most importantly—she was by his side each night when he awoke. Yes. She always came for him, but most of the time she was right next to him to begin with. And if that was not the very definition of grace, Eric needed a new fucking dictionary.
Despite the fact that Eric had not been a human for a thousand years, he had been happy to give Sookie a human wedding because she wanted one. She didn’t need one; she wanted it. The teenaged girl who had resigned herself to the idea that she would never find a mate who could love or accept her—but who had still spent afternoons quietly dreaming of a wedding alongside an equally hopeless Lafayette—wanted it. The young “mostly-human” woman who had chosen to risk her heart by bonding with a thousand-year-old vampire wanted it. The powerful fairy who had pulled him from the very jaws of hell and into the light—and who now wanted to proclaim to the world that the vampire belonged to her—wanted it.
And Eric was not about to deny her.
She’d wanted to wear a beautiful dress for him—and though the ivory color she wore most definitely did not symbolize virginity in their case, it represented much more for both of them. At first, Sookie had considered wearing ice blue, and she’d even picked out a dress in that color, but then she’d changed her mind for three reasons.
The first reason was actually the conventional one. White was traditional in human weddings in many Western cultures. It would be familiar—comforting even—to those on the outside looking in. And though both Sookie and Eric felt that the implicit “requirement” that the bride be “pure” while the groom could be whatever the heck he wanted was antiquated, the truth was that white was the color of hope, and it well-represented the enduring clarity of their love for one another.
The second reason that Sookie had chosen to wear a shade of white was because of the rich and various meanings the color had throughout the world. Sure—it was the color of faith and purity, but it also represented mourning and death in certain cultures. And rebirth.
The “rebirth” part was what resonated most with Sookie. And—though this day was mostly about once more sharing the love that they had for each other—Eric and Sookie couldn’t help but to feel grief as well. They were both almost certain that the occasion of their wedding was the moment in time that Artegal had once predicted—the moment when Britomart would be free to move on to be with her mate. Eric sighed, knowing that he, Hunter, Sookie, Niall, Claude and the others in the clan would deeply mourn the A.P.’s loss. But the nature of the universe seemed to dictate that for every destruction, something new would be made. His and Sookie’s bonds had been destroyed, but a new one now stood in their place. The A.P. might move on, but what would she become? And how much happier would she be? Yes. “Rebirth” was often where the most beauty could be found.
The third reason was because of a class Sookie had taken at Bossier Parish Community College. Ironically, it had been the class she’d least wanted to take: a general education physical sciences class. However, as his wife always did, she’d stubbornly thrown herself into the course and had found things that interested her. And one of those things had been learning about how colors were formed. She’d not known before that white was created through the reflection—the emission—of every color, all rolled into one bright package. Of course, black was its opposite, created by objects that did not emit light.
Eric had told her that she was his “white,” giving off every color that he’d been missing in his life before she’d stepped into Fangtasia.
In turn, she’d told him that he was her “black,” absorbing all color—deep.
Eric smiled. While old movies styled the hero in white and the villain in black, he’d always known that people tended toward the gray. But black and white did seem to symbolize Sookie and him—not because one was “bad” and one was “good.” Not because one was “night” and one was “day.” And not because they were “opposites,” for Sookie and he were not opposites—as it turned out. No. It was because black and white were true “complements”—nature’s way of illustrating balance and harmony that could be seen with the eyes and felt by the hand.
So the principle colors of their wedding had become black and white, though Sookie hadn’t been able to resist a little blue being thrown in.
Seeing Sookie looking so beautiful, Eric knew that she’d made the right choice of color. His wife’s slightly tanned skin glowed against the neutral ivory hue of the dress.
She was an angel.
She was a goddess.
Best of all, she was his Sookie.
Similar to her, Eric had wanted to wear the finest of suits for her. He wanted to present himself as a partner worthy of the lovely vision in front of him. It was an impulse that lingered from his days as a human.
Eric remembered back to his marriage to Aude. It had been a good arrangement for his village and for hers. As Chieftain, he had made sure that all of the marriage rituals of his people were performed so that Aude and her family were honored. Yet, feeling no real affection for the woman he was tying himself to, Eric had simply gone through all the motions. He had fulfilled his duty.
But nothing he was feeling with Sookie seemed like duty to Eric. Sure—he felt a duty to protect her and their family. But there was something startling in knowing that she felt the same duty. And, of course, both of them felt that obligation all the time.
No. In that moment, as Sookie’s eyes drew him in, he felt something very different than what he’d felt as he’d stood next to Aude and been married to her.
His family had been dead then—every single member. But, here and now, he felt surrounded by family. His life had seemed bleak then—just one step after another that he was required to complete in order to bring pride back to his village and to honor the memory of his human father. But, here and now, he did not feel sluggish and lonely. He felt as if he wanted to step forward into time with his wife. His life had held little pleasure for him then—beyond the thrill of battle and the pride he’d allowed himself to feel for his fledgling children, whom he hardly ever got to see because of the raids he’d had to lead. But, here and now, he felt only joy.
He and his mate had wanted to stand in front of their son, their family, society, and any god who was listening while they proclaimed their love for each other. Their pledging had meant a lot to them, and as far as both he and Sookie were concerned, they were married already. But Sookie had grown up thinking that she would be denied a wedding because no one would want her, and Eric wasn’t going to fucking have that!
She was wanted! She would always be wanted.
Yes. Eric’s nervousness left him the moment his hand touched hers. And in its place there was only contentment. He saw nothing—nothing—except his beautiful bride before him.