I woke up deliciously sore and still tingling—most assuredly from the after-effects of the orgasms Eric insisted we put into my “jar” last night. I’d never been one to complain about an excellent plan.
What could I say? I was a very lucky girl, and my husband had excellent plans.
Glancing at the clock, I saw that it would be about two hours before Eric rose. He’d been getting up about an hour before sunset each night, and I was looking forward to watching it with him. Despite my wish to stay cuddled into the body of my mate, my bladder forced me to get out of bed; I couldn’t help but to laugh at the image I saw in the mirror.
It was very much different than the last time I saw it.
My simple, elegant bun from the night before had been replaced by the worst case of sex hair I’d ever had, and with Eric as my partner, I’d had plenty of bad cases before. I also noticed that there were no signs of my smudge-proof lipstick. I chuckled and turned on the shower so that the water could warm and then did as my bladder commanded. I would take only a short shower now so that I could get my hair under control. I planned to be waiting in the tub for Eric when he rose.
After my shower, I was pleased to find that I didn’t need a chainsaw to get through my tangled mass after all, and within ten minutes, I looked like myself more than a member of an 80’s hair-band.
My husband must have been rubbing off on me because I wandered into the living room of the cabin as naked as the day I was born. But I had an outfit in mind. I grabbed Eric’s black shirt from the night before and inhaled my husband’s scent deeply before I put the garment on. It—of course—was like a dress on me, but I enjoyed wearing Eric’s clothing when I could, especially when he was asleep. It didn’t really make me feel any closer to him; after all, we were about as close as two beings could get. But—as odd as it sounded since Eric was a cold-blooded creature—wearing his clothing made me feel warmer somehow.
Next on the agenda was food, and I practically skipped to the kitchen. I started coffee and hummed a little tune as I made French toast for myself. Not wanting to waste any of the food Eric had brought, I tried to use all the perishable items. I put the leftover bread into the freezer. There was one egg left, so I scrambled that up and ate it on the side.
Eric had gotten me a Kindle after I returned from the fairy realm, and I powered it up and settled into the mystery I was reading as I ate my breakfast.
Half an hour and two chapters later, I turned off the little machine and then spent some time doing the chores that had to be done before we left. I gathered up the dirty dishes, washed them, and then left them to dry as I put away the camera equipment and laptop. I also gathered up my dress, shoes and bra from the floor as well as the rest of Eric’s discarded clothing. I placed them and our other dirty clothing into the duffel bag. After that, I put away the dried dishes and gathered up the little bit of trash we’d created so that we could take it with us to throw away.
I knew that Eric had told Hunter that we’d be home a little before his bedtime, so that would leave us a while to spend together before we left. With that in mind, I ran a bath and settled into it as I waited for Eric to rise.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew, I felt a big Viking getting into the water with me—big in every way imaginable.
Did I mention I was lucky?
I sank into his broad chest and sighed. Without a word, he took the bath gel from the side of the tub and lathered his hands before he got to work on my apparently very dirty body. I moaned as he tenderly—and then more vigorously—washed my back and arms. He re-lathered his hands before moving them around to my upper chest and stomach. I arched into his strong fingers as they caressed and cared for me. I tried to scoot up a bit so that those fingers would touch my breasts, but he denied me. After one more re-lathering, however, he finally moved to them. His slow, erotic handling of me caused ripples through my body that pooled between my legs.
“Are you ready for me, lover?” came my suddenly impatient vampire’s voice from behind me.
For about a second, I thought about teasing him―just as he’d been teasing me—but he’d worked me up too much, so coyness and hesitation were out the window. My head was slumped back against his shoulder, and I nodded against his chest.
Quicker than I could register, he had turned me around in his arms and I was impaled on his hard erection.
“Eric!” I cried out as I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on.
“Mmmm,” he sounded as he raised and lowered my hips again and again, setting a frenzied pace for us. As he moved my body, he also moved his. His hips thrust upward, causing the most delicious pounding against my pubic bone and rubbing my clit on each upstroke.
“So close,” I moaned after only a few minutes of his steady thrusts. He brought his thumb down and swirled it around my clit almost desperately. That meant that he was close too, but was waiting for me to cum first before he lost control.
I grabbed his face in my hands and gave him a hard kiss before pulling back and looking him in the eyes. “Cum for me, Eric,” I whispered. “Cum with me,” I groaned as my orgasm started.
My explosion drew the first burst of seed from Eric’s body, and the next thing I knew, he was biting into my breast, feeding from me and feeding my orgasm as well. I shook around him in ecstasy as he emptied into me. Lazily, he closed the small wound in my body and then held me close to him until the aftershocks of our releases ebbed and we were both left panting into each other’s shoulders. I liked that I made him pant even though he didn’t have to breathe.
“I love you, min kära,” he said.
“I love you,” I returned.
After our bath and love-making, we watched the sun dip into the horizon together. The daylight was just another gift my bonded had given to me. I was still awake for only part of the day and could not stay out in the sun interminably, but I’d not seen it for a thousand years before Sookie came into my life. Thus, I had zero complaints about any restrictions my vampire nature still had for me.
Moreover, seeing the sun with my mate—who was such a creature of that orb—was always a revelation for me.
Once the feathery light of the setting sun was gone, Sookie and I went back inside the cabin.
“Will you come with me?” I asked as I stretched out my hand to her.
She looked up at me and took in my serious expression. “Anywhere,” she said. I smiled at her words and the truth behind them.
She took my hand and I led her to the cubby. I motioned for her to sit on the bed.
“There is one other reason I wished to come to the cabin alone with you, min kära,” I said softly.
She looked at me with curiosity in her eyes.
I lifted one of my pendants from around my neck. I left the eagle’s talon Godric had given me and took off the little locket I had carved to hold the silver fragments that Sookie had taken from my body. Sookie had saved those silver pieces and had given them to me as tokens of her love for me.
However, when she gave me those symbols of her love, I am sure that she had never intended for me to use them to cause myself pain—which I had done during all the months that I had been unable to feel her through the fairy bond. Focusing on them had kept me sane during that time. I knew now that I had gone about my self-preservation in the wrong way and that I had inadvertently hurt those around me—including Hunter and Pam—but at the time, my pain had been all-consuming. I had been lost in my own fears.
I had already confessed to my wife that I had used the silver to cause myself pain during her absence; thus, she had very ambivalent feelings about the little locket I still wore.
Carefully, I opened the wooden covering and turned over the locket so that the two silver fragments inside—the shard from the bomb in Dallas and the bullet Debbie Pelt had shot into my shoulder—were on the bed next to Sookie. My mate had taken both of them from my body—the first because I had tricked her and the second because she did not want to see me in pain.
Sookie cringed when I lightly brushed my fingers over the silver pieces lovingly. Immediately, I felt her magic healing my tiny wounds even faster than my own could do the job.
“It is okay, min kära.” I said soothingly. “I know that you do not like the fact that I once used these pieces of silver to cause myself pain, and I wish I had been strong enough not to do that, but I was not.” I sighed and ran my hand through my hair as I did when I was nervous. Only with her did I feel like I could show my uncertainty.
“Eric,” she whispered. I felt her comfort reaching into me through the bond as if it were a corporeal being that could hold me from the inside. Maybe it was.
“I love this silver,” I said, bringing my hand to within millimeters of it, but not touching the metal again.
I saw confusion on my mate’s face.
“Both of these pieces of silver entered into me when I was protecting you.”
She nodded and looked at me with love. “I know.”
I motioned toward the bullet Debbie had put into me. “I love this one more than the other.”
“Why?” Sookie asked, her curiosity rising.
“Because I did not have to trick you into sucking it out of me,” I said softly.
She shook her head and took the other piece of silver into her hand. “I like this one more.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because who else in this wide world would have stepped between me and a bomb. You saved my life, you big, silly vampire.”
“No you don’t,” she said seriously. “You don’t get to laugh off the fact that you put yourself between me and a bomb.”
“Sookie,” I said gently as I brushed my fingers across her cheek. “I was fine.”
“After I sucked several pieces of silver from you,” she said shaking her head. A little smile fell onto her lips, but then immediately fell back off. She closed her eyes. “Stan was only a few feet from us, and he died. That bomb was full of silver—like this piece right here.” Her brown eyes glistened with unspent tears as she opened her eyes and looked down at the silver in her hand. “And when I think about this hurtin’ you again, Eric—when I think about you usin’ this silver to cause yourself pain—I just,” she stopped midsentence as her tears began to fall.
I pulled her into my arms. “I am sorry, min kära.”
“What were you thinkin’ when you hurt yourself with this stuff?” she asked. “I need to know, Eric.”
I sighed and nodded. “And I need to tell you so that I can be free of that pain. But I need to tell you more so that you can be free of it too.”
She burrowed into my chest, even as I felt her guilt in the bond. Sookie had been completely right about my needing to overcome the fear I felt about the past, but I had been feeling a similarly negative emotion staining her own conscience during the past weeks: guilt. She felt guilty that our separation had been twenty months to me, but just over one month to her. And I knew that at a subconscious level, she blamed herself for being gone from me. She blamed herself for not having enough control over her gifts at the time she was taken by Claudette. She blamed herself for being on Mab and Claudette’s radar at all. In short, she blamed herself for every bit of the pain that I had felt in the months that she was gone.
She might not have known that she was blaming herself so much—not on a conscious level—but she was doing just that.
I sighed. I knew that Sookie felt responsible for everything that had happened. I knew it because of the intensity with which she seemed to be trying to “make something up” to me. Hunter had even questioned me a few times about Sookie’s thoughts. He was wondering why his aunt Sookie felt like she needed to be perfect for us all the time.
I inhaled deeply and unnecessarily as I tucked Sookie closer into me. I spoke softly, “When they were inside of my body, that silver in your hand and the piece on the bed burned like fire. But,” I paused, “in both cases, I was also glad to feel that silver because it meant that it was not in you. It meant that I had done my job in protecting you. It meant that I was being a worthy mate to you.”
I felt her wiping her tears onto the old T-shirt I had put on just for that purpose. I had known that she would cry when we spoke of this. Thus, I hated even bringing it up. But—her tears tonight were just as necessary as mine had been the night before. I wanted us to move on with our lives without her guilt and without my fear. We had been happy since her return from the fairy realm, and Hunter was happy too, but I wanted to remove the weight from her shoulders so that I could see her smiles shining in her eyes. It just went to show how fucking in sync with each other we were in that she had seen a similar weight on me and had wanted to use this getaway to deal with that as well.
I sighed and continued to speak when her cries had lessened a little. “I hurt myself with these pieces of silver because I wanted to remember the times when I had been able to protect you. I even wanted to remember that pain. I wanted to imagine that I was with you to take away any pain that you might have been feeling at that time—just as you took away my pain when these were inside of me. I was numb, and I wanted to feel. I was powerless, and I needed to remember times when I had saved you so that I could focus on doing what needed to be done in order to save you again if need be. I know it wasn’t healthy, min kära, but it was not something that I could control at the time.”
“You can’t do things like that, Eric. Not ever again. You just—can’t,” she insisted as she whimpered into my shirt.
“Sookie?” I said, prompting her to look at me. “I promise you that I will live the rest of my life by your side. I promise you that if we are ever separated again, I will not let a night go by before we are together again. I promise that I will follow you into death—if need be. And I promise that I will throw myself into the paths of thousands of silver bullets to protect you from pain if I have to.” I sighed. “But I also promise that I will never again give in to despair as I did when I hurt myself with this silver.”
She nodded, even as more tears dropped from her eyes.
“But you must promise me something too, my love.”
“What?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“No more guilt, Sookie.”
She looked at me in question.
“You had no power over what happened to me—to us. It was not your fault, my love. Yet I feel you blaming yourself for the time we lost. However, that time was necessary in saving our lives. If you had not gone with Claudette, I would be dead and Hunter would be in Mab’s clutches. If you had not spent the time training with Niall and Claude, Russell would have killed me. Yet you blame yourself for what Russell did to me too. I am the one who left him alive when I should have let him die in the sun outside of Fangtasia. I made that mistake, Sookie. But you refused to let me feel responsible for it.” I paused. “Even now, I feel the guilt flowing from you. But you have done nothing to feel guilty for—nothing!”
She was weeping again into my shirt.
“You told me something very wise last night, my love,” I continued, speaking quietly as if to lull her. “You said that I should not let my fear of the past tarnish the life we live now. Please, do not allow the guilt you feel to do something similar.”
She cried for a few minutes more and then looked up at me. “We’re quite the pair, huh?”
I chuckled and wiped away her tears. “We are. We both have this notion that we should be able to control that which happens to us. But we cannot always do that. And when we feel powerless, we both tend to blame ourselves for it. It is something we must,” I paused, “work on―together―min kära.”
“Did you get that from Dear Abby?” she asked, her smile traveling to her eyes and into the bond.
I laughed. “Pam continues to place what she calls ‘relevant lessons’ onto my desk at Fangtasia each Sunday night. And—I hate to admit it, but sometimes Abby is helpful.”
“Yeah, she puts them on my desk at home too,” Sookie said with a little laugh of her own. “She’s a pain in the ass, but she loves you and Hunter very much.”
“And you too,” I reminded.
She chuckled a little more freely. “Not yet, but I’m working on her. Plus,” she said a little feistily, “I’m not sure I love her just yet.”
I pulled her into a tight embrace. I loved it when Sookie was spirited. I also loved that the upwelling of guilt which I had felt from her inside of the bond had lessened considerably. It wasn’t quite gone, but—like the fear I had been feeling from within myself—it was well on its way out.
I pulled back from her and picked up the wooden locket I had made and motioned for her to put the silver pieces inside of it before I closed the locket and put it into her hands.
“I love these pieces of silver, min kära,” I said again quietly. “They are and will always be tokens that show me your love for me.”
“Are you giving me this?” she looked at me in confusion as she held up the locket.