I woke up a little before 3:00 p.m. to find that I hadn’t moved an inch since I’d fallen asleep cradling Eric to my body. I was lying on my back and my Viking was lying on my chest; however, as always, he’d somehow managed to keep me from feeling too much of his weight.
“Magic,” I chucked to myself as I looked down at my 6’4” husband, who should have felt like a ton of dead weight on top of my much smaller frame. My smile stayed on my lips. “Magic indeed,” I said aloud, knowing that Eric was dead to the world and could not hear me.
However, despite his stillness—his apparent death—I still felt him clearly. And it wasn’t just the usual buzz of his life that I’d been able to sense from him before our bonds fused into one; it was an imprint of what he’d been feeling before he’d fallen into his day-rest. He wasn’t dreaming—at least not exactly—but he didn’t seem fully dead either. I felt his happiness. I felt his peace.
It was effin’ amazing.
I brushed his soft blond bangs across his forehead and studied what I could see of his face, given our position. He’d fallen into his rest with a tiny smile on his lips, which matched exactly the feeling that still echoed in our “new” bond. His face, though burrowed into my breast like it was a pillow—a fact that made my skin warm into a blush—was turned slightly upward, as if he had been looking at me right before sleep called to him. I blushed a little brighter when I saw that one of his large hands was also lying on my breast, but when I looked a bit closer, I realized that his elegant fingers were actually resting on my new scar. I sighed. I could barely make out the twin lines on his chest from our position, but I knew that they were an exact copy of my own.
I rested my fingers on top of Eric’s, and I felt a slight tingle in our bond, as if it knew our hands were together right on top of it. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling until my bladder decided to make its presence known.
Although I wasn’t tired, I crawled back into bed after a quick trip to the bathroom. Once there, I moved back to where I’d been before, carefully positioning Eric so that he was once more resting on me. Since I’d been back from the fairy realm, I hadn’t wanted him to wake up alone. The few times I hadn’t been able to be with him when he woke up, I had felt a sharp pang of fear from his side of the vampire bond as soon as he’d woken up. That fear was always immediately followed by an almost desperate probing into the bond until he found that I was safe and near. I sighed and ran my fingers through his hair and along his shoulders in soft, soothing strokes, even though I knew that he probably couldn’t feel them. I hated that he was still afraid that I would be gone when he woke up. I understood why he felt that fear; it was natural. But I still hated it.
I made sure that my mate’s fingers were exactly where they’d been when he fell asleep.
And then I fell back into my dreams of him.
For a vampire, waking up is an instantaneous thing. Years of training from Godric—training which had turned into habit—caused me to assess my surroundings as soon as I woke up. It had been ingrained into me until it was an automatic survival response. However, I found that since Sookie had first taken my blood in Dallas, the first thing that I looked for was not potential danger. It was her.
For a total of thirty two months and twenty-three nights—taking into account the two times that she had been taken to the fairy realm—I had not been able to feel Sookie when I woke up. So sensing her now—with both the bond and my own fingertips when I awoke—was a blessing which I would never take for granted. As soon as I knew she was with me and safe, I stretched out my senses to make sure there were no threats lurking within my considerable range. There was nothing in the woods except the peace of the coming night and various forms of wildlife—none of it Were.
I felt myself relax fully.
I was still in Sookie’s arms and she was snoring lightly, as she did every time she slept on her back. The sound made me smile and lulled me as much as her heartbeat did.
I was happy to stay as I was until she woke up, though I may have hurried things along—just a little—by moving my fingers in wide strokes around her belly and lightly kissing her beautiful breast, which had been my pillow throughout my sleep.
So sue me! My wife was fucking beautiful.
Plus, I had promised her kisses, and I had her whole body to keep my promise to. I was a vampire of my word―after all.
She moaned a little in her sleep. “Eric?” she sighed my name as a question.
“Sookie?” I returned.
“Ready for your surprise?” she asked sleepily.
“Oh yes,” I growled a little, as I continued raining gentle kisses over her breasts.
“Are you prepared?” she asked in a teasing voice as she woke up a bit more. She gasped as she tangled her fingers into my hair and pulled my lips to her nipple. Never one to deny my bonded a kiss, I swirled my tongue around the taut peak before taking it fully into my mouth and sucking gently.
“Oh yes,” I repeated in answer to her question, as I was tantalized by her other nipple; I quickly pulled it between my lips just as I had done with its compatriot.
“Well I’m not,” she giggled lightheartedly, as she sat up, taking me with her. She giggled again at my crestfallen look as my lips fell from her nipple with a slight pop.
“I’m gonna go take a shower, and you are gonna make my dinner,” she ordered me.
Her tone did not help my erection to go away. Not. At. All.
“Am I?” I asked, matching her teasing.
“Yep,” she said with certainty. “You brought stuff for pancakes the other day—right?”
I had learned how to flip a mean pancake from Lafayette. “Yes,” I answered.
“Then hop to, Buck-o.”
I chuckled. “Fine, woman. I will feed you.”
I stood up naked as the day I was born and walked toward the door of our bedroom, but when I saw Sookie’s look—a look I understood too well as the one that demanded some modesty from me—I grabbed some boxer-briefs out of the dresser and put them on. I gave her a wink before moving to the door. “You want bacon?” I asked over my shoulder.
“What do you think?” she asked saucily.
Yep—my cock heard that tone too. My underwear didn’t stand a fucking chance.
“How many pieces?” I asked.
“Three,” she said. “Thank you,” she added sweetly.
I mumbled something about unreasonable wives not even letting their husbands kiss them all night long and then went to work carrying out my wife’s bidding. After all—I comforted myself—she would need to have her energy for the workout I planned to give her.
I was pulling out the frying pan to get started on her meal when I heard the shower turn on. I was tempted to ditch her meal and join her in the shower, but my instincts told me that the surprise she had for me was important to her, so I sighed resignedly and started the bacon instead.
Lafayette had taught me how to use the bacon grease to help flavor the pancakes, so I let the fatty meat fry as I prepared the pancake batter just as Lafayette had trained me to do. Hunter liked this particular food too and often craved it at night instead of at his breakfast time—when it was customarily consumed. And since I had been making many of Hunter’s evening meals for a while now, I had made many a “flapjack” for my son. As it turned out, Sookie was just as fond of the food and had been pleasantly surprised that I had learned to prepare other meals as well. I enjoyed providing for my son and now my wife in such a way.
Since her return, Sookie had taken over the preparation of three of Hunter’s dinnertime meals each week, while I continued to make two of them. I found that I enjoyed helping Sookie on the nights she was in charge of the meal; I was learning from her, and we worked well together as we performed this domestic task. At her insistence, Sookie had also resumed much of the cleaning for our home. I smiled when I thought of the sheets that had been dried in the sun, which she had ready for us on her second night back in this realm. She had also smelled very strongly of the sun that day.
Lafayette had offered to take a pay cut since his duties had been virtually cut in half after Sookie’s return. However, Sookie and I had refused, assuring him that we still needed his help when we had larger gatherings. Plus, he still prepared many of Hunter’s and Sookie’s daytime meals. With his extra time, Lafayette had briefly considered going to college with Sookie, but then had decided to start a garden instead. With Claude’s help, Lafayette was already beginning to plant seasonal vegetables for the meals of those on the ætt land. The work seemed to satisfy him very much. And I liked the fact that Hunter and Sookie’s diets would become even healthier because of Lafayette’s efforts. Of course, as I warmed some maple syrup for Sookie’s pancakes and took the greasy bacon out of the pan, I recognized that not every meal had to be healthy.
One of the advantages of being a vampire was the ability to perform tasks quickly. So I had the kitchen put back to rights, a big pile of pancakes made, and crispy bacon waiting in a warm oven when Sookie wandered into the kitchen, wearing only one of my T-shirts and a smile. She looked hungry, and that look made me hungry too.
Reading my lust through our now even more potent bond, she grinned at me. “Warm yourself a TruBlood, Vampire. It’s not quite time for me to be your dinner yet.”
I pouted a little. “Fine,” I said before doing just that and then joining her at the little table so that we could share our meal together. If we had been at home, Hunter would have been with us. A text confirming my son’s safety and wellbeing had arrived from Batanya while I was cooking, so I was able to enjoy my time with my bonded without worry.
“You remembered the strawberries,” she said as she took a bite of her food.
“You and your strawberries; Hunter and his blueberries,” I bemoaned teasingly.
“We like what we like,” she said as she took a bite.
I think that I moaned as she moaned around her fork. No—I was sure of it.
“Go take a shower,” she ordered when she felt my lust rising again, this time due to the sounds she was making as she ate the food that I had prepared for her. My lust—as well as my cock—rose even more at the commanding tone of her voice.
She took another bite and, once again, she moaned. Her eyes held mine as she licked her fork.
I growled. Now I was certain. My minx was trying to cause the true death of me—one tease at a time.
What a way to die!
I leaned in toward my bonded, looking to kiss her plump lips and get a taste of strawberry.
She responded by putting a hand on my chest and keeping me at bay. “Nuh-uh, Mister. You need to go pretty yourself up for me.” Her tone was all business, even as her eyes shone playfully.
I felt her mirth in the bond—our new, improved bond as far as I was fucking concerned.
“I love it when you give me orders, wife,” I purred, trying to lean in again.
“No you don’t,” she swatted my chest lightly. “I’m following orders too.”
I looked at her in question.
“Hunter’s orders,” she said with a smile.
“Hunter?” I queried.
“Yes. But no more hints, or I’ll be in trouble with your son,” she insisted.
“Our son,” I said, as I finally succeeded in stealing my kiss. She tasted of strawberries and sweet maple, just as I knew she would.
“Eric,” she said breathlessly as I released her. I could both see and feel that her control was wavering as her lust rose.
“Fine,” I chuckled before finishing off my TruBlood in one gulp. “Have it your way, min kära.” I tried to sneak another kiss.
Her skin reddening, she giggled and pushed me away.
I got up and, by habit, quickly rinsed out my bottle before setting it on the counter. I knew that Sookie would want to separate the recyclables from the other trash when we left. Both of us were invested in making sure the planet lasted as long as possible, after all.
My task finished, I came over to my wife and kissed her softly on the cheek.
“Scoot!” she ordered, giving me a little smack on the ass.
“You are so bossy, wife,” I grumbled playfully. I stole one final kiss from her lips before moving quickly to the bathroom. There was a note stuck to the mirror:
Can you be good?
Can you follow directions?
If so, you will get your surprise.
Take a shower and then wait in the bathroom.
No coming out. No peeking. (No matter what you hear.)
More instructions will follow.
I could not help but to smile at Sookie’s words―as well as her penmanship. Thankfully, she was not the kind who put hearts over her i’s or anything like that, nor was her handwriting rendered in perfect lines or exact letter formations as mine was.
It wasn’t that I was anal about my own writing. It was just that I had learned with a quill, and those motherfuckers were unforgiving.
No—I loved Sookie’s handwriting because it was like her: curvy and playful. There were certain letters that she seemed to “like” more than others, and she wrote those with a bit of a flourish. For instance, the “V” in “Viking” had an extra loop on it because she was having fun when she wrote it—perhaps experimenting with a letter she did not have occasion to write very often. And her question marks may as well have been winks at me. They too had a little extra looping and were quite a bit longer and wider than the letters in the sentences they ended.
I turned on the water in the shower, and finding it still warm from Sookie’s recent usage, I stepped inside. I closed my eyes and imagined the look that must have been on my bonded’s face as she had written her playful note. I would bet anything that she had been biting her bottom lip at the time, her eyes shining and her fingers absently tapping on the countertop as she came up with just the words she wanted to say.
As I quickly cleaned my hair and body so that I would be ready for my next set of instructions, I enjoyed feeling my mate’s emotions. She was eager and happy. Through our bond and my senses, I could not help but to track her movements. Almost as soon as I had stepped into the shower, she went into the closet and began to move and then remove some items. I could not help but to wonder what she was doing. Previously, Sookie had left only a few items of clothing at the cabin—mostly warm things, which she had brought over in anticipation of our using the retreat during the winter. That was before she was taken to the fairy realm by Claudette. I sighed and expelled that fairy from my mind as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair.
On the other hand, I had quite a few clothes in the cabin. I had always kept a practical wardrobe in each safe house I owned. I knew that at any time, I might have to run, so I had cash and other essentials at the ready.
In the past, I generally had a few “not-so-secret” residences in which I spent just enough time to let people like Sophie-Anne think they had found out where I rested and imagine that they had the upper hand on me. I found that things like that were good for “diplomacy.”
Of course, I always had a couple more residences that served as my actual resting places. In the past, only Pam had known of those, and she had been given a maker’s command never to reveal their locations. However, not even Pam knew of the cabin’s location, though—in the event of my true death—she would be given a letter by Cataliades with a series of clues that would lead her to it. The cabin had been my true haven in the area, and it was there that I had always kept the things that I wanted to make sure stayed the most secure. Sookie would consider the safe in the cabin’s cubby to be a “keepsake” box. One of the things that I wanted to do before Sookie and I returned to the ætt land was to show her the things that I kept in it, and there were other things that she and I needed to add to the safe as well—ghosts that I would no longer allow to haunt my wife with their presence in our home.
My serious expression turned into a smile as I listened to Sookie make a trip down to the cubby. She was obviously carrying something there, and she grunted a little bit under her burden.
“Need any help, lover?” I asked into the bond.
Sookie, who had been humming a tune—poorly I might add―seemed to be a little startled by my voice. I could almost imagine her looking around, ready to chastise me for sneaking a peek.
I heard her chuckle to herself. “It’s gonna take some time to get used to the fact that we can talk like this.” She giggled a little louder—also into the bond. It tickled.
I loved it.
“But I love it,” I said to her with my smile tugging higher at my lips.
“Me too,” she sighed. I could feel her earnestness as well as peace in our bond.
“So?” I asked. “Need any help? You know that I love it when you grunt, but I prefer that you do it when you are under me and I am. . . .”
“Stop right there, Mister!” she said scoldingly. I could imagine the lovely shade of red that was inflaming her cheeks. “No dirty talkin’ in the bond! Oh—and I don’t grunt.”
I chuckled. “Of course not,” I said to her as I heard her enter the security code for the cubby. “Where are you going lover?” I asked.
“Stop bein’ nosey and get clean!” she admonished me, though her emotions in the bond were playful.
“Will you promise to get me dirty again if I do?” I asked.
“Only if you behave and do what you’re told, which includes you lettin’ me get back to work!” she said spiritedly. She giggled a little, which I could both hear and feel in the bond now.
I really fucking loved our new bond!
“I shall behave, lover,” I purred. “Until you tell me not to behave—that is.”
She chuckled again and went back to whatever “work” she was doing. It was not long before she was humming again. She had once told me in a fantasy that she could not carry a tune even if it were in a bucket with a lid on it. It turned out that fantasy Sookie had been a hundred percent right, but I loved to hear my mate humming or singing softly to herself anyway. She only did it when she was at her most content and feeling comfortable with herself, and I loved when she felt that way. And—because I was a selfish vampire—I loved it even more that she felt that way around me.
I smiled into the warm water before turning it off. I grabbed a towel and—as had always been my habit—started to dry my hair first.
I had had many of the same habits for a thousand years. There were some things that I had thought that I would be doing for a thousand more, but Sookie had changed many things for me; so had Hunter. I thought of how my resting habits had altered radically after I bonded with Sookie and then became Hunter’s father.
For the first time in my life as a vampire, I had what humans referred to as a “permanent address”—a true home—where I felt safe enough to stay for a long period of time. Moreover, I did not give a fuck who knew its location either because I had powerful people that I trusted to keep me safe during the day. Plus—since I had an incredible wife—I knew that I could wake up in the day and fight for what I loved if need be.
Until Russell’s Weres had killed my parents and sister there, my family’s lodge had always felt like home to me. But after I cleaned my father’s, my mother’s, and then my tiny sister’s blood from the wooden floorboards, that building never felt the same to me again. Their blood permanently stained the floor, even as their deaths had stained my heart. I felt my anger rise as I thought of Sookie having to complete a similar task after her grandmother had died. I had not been with her then; if I had been, she would not have had to clean Gran’s blood from her kitchen floor. The fact that Compton did not take care of that task made me want to bring him back to life just so I could kill him again—this time much more slowly.
I felt concern from Sookie through our bond, and I realized that my anger had prompted her reaction. I sent her reassurance and love.
“Just memories, min kära,” I said softly into the bond.
She did not probe further, nor did she ask what memories had angered me. Instead she simply sent me her love and then spoke it into the bond. “I love you, Eric.”
I closed my eyes. “And I you, my Sookie.”
As I finished drying myself, I returned to my reflections. For the first years of my existence as a vampire, Godric had felt like a god to me. I counted on his teaching for everything, but we had never stayed anywhere long enough to establish a home. In fact, Godric taught me never to get too comfortable in any one place. On the contrary, he trained me to move around a lot and to establish multiple locations where I could sleep for the day, even as he taught me never to fool myself into thinking that they were truly secure.
He had trained me how to survive, which I would forever be grateful for, but he had never taught me how to “rest.”
Sookie had done that.
I wondered sometimes if Godric would approve of the fact that I had built a “nest.” He had never endorsed the idea of them in his lifetime, though he had broken some of his own “rules” in his later years when he established a nest in Dallas. Of course, he did not really sleep there. On the night after his death before I returned to Shreveport, I had gone to his bombed-out nest and found the tunnel that led to his actual resting place. He had shared its codes with me before I begged him to stay alive.
I sighed. Godric would have certainly been skeptical about the amount of trust I placed in those around me—in humans and Weres and shifters and demons and witches and other vampires. Even fairies! But Sookie had taught me how to trust in others, even as she had taught me how to trust in love. After experiencing living at the ætt land with Hunter and Sookie, as well as the others in our clan, I could not imagine going back to my solitary existence. I did not want to.
In fact, I had sold most of my safe houses in northern Louisiana during the previous two years. In addition to the cabin, I kept only my two most secure residences, since I had actually spent quite a bit of time in them. But I had plans to sell both of them as well. I intended to take Sookie to them soon so that we could pick out some of the artwork I had collected over the years to use in our home. I did not have a big art collection since I had never wanted to be encumbered by it if I ever had to leave a place quickly. But I did have some items that I enjoyed because of the memories wrapped up in them, and I wanted those to be in my home—now that I truly had one. I had just been waiting for my wife to return.
As I heard Sookie leave the cubby, I wrapped my towel around my waist since I had not bothered to bring clean clothing into the bathroom with me. A couple of minutes later, I heard my bonded’s heartbeat close to the bathroom door. The sounds of her muffled giggles filled the air, as did the telltale sound of a note being slipped under the door. As soon as the piece of paper was halfway under, I bent down to take it. Sensing me there, Sookie teased me a little by keeping hold of the note for a moment. With my strength, I could have taken the scrap of paper easily, but I did not want to risk ripping it. Plus, I enjoyed Sookie’s playful giggling too much. She did not say a word to me as she let the note go and stood up. I heard her scurrying from the room and prayed to the gods that the note would “order” me to chase after her. I opened the folded piece of paper.
Excellent obedience so far.
Close your eyes and go down to the cubby.
P.S. No peeking on the way.
I chuckled, wondering what my bonded had in store for me next.