Chapter 38: Stuck on You
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 10:50 p.m.
Sookie breathed a sigh of relief when she and Eric shut their bedroom door behind them. It had taken some time to sort everything out after the battle with Jade and her allies. And then additional security measures had been discussed among the vampires of Louisiana in order to deal with other possible threats from any remaining rogue Arkansas vampires and/or whatever fallout might come from Andre’s sudden disappearance.
To make matters more complicated on that front, Andre had—once again—shut down enough of his bond with his maker so that it was impossible for Queen Sophie-Anne to locate him. The queen had considered using her maker’s call upon him, but had opted to hold off. She had—after all—told her eldest child to fix things with the Bill situation. Sophie-Anne was holding out hope that Andre was doing just that.
Sookie, too, held out hope that Bill would soon be a nonissue—no matter who was responsible for making him that way.
But there was a worry.
Rasul, the vampire who was keeping a watch on the safehouse where Andre had stowed Bill, was not answering his phone or responding to texts. It was very possible that he was in pursuit of his target and could not risk the communication. His last report, about an hour earlier, indicated that Bill and whoever he was with had received some donors into the house and that the donors had left. Rasul had posited that Bill might be on the move soon and confirmed that he was ready to follow.
If Rasul did not report in by midnight, Wybert was planning to dispatch a vampire to Andre’s safehouse in order to check things out. Adding another person to the mix increased the chances of discovery, but the queen’s patience was wearing down.
Sookie watched as Eric moved quickly to the bathroom and started the shower. They had to be in the ballroom in only thirty minutes in order to witness the official signing of the betrothal contract between Sophie-Anne and Peter. And they both needed a shower—badly.
How they were going to get clean without “distracting” each other, get dressed in fine ball-ready clothing without “distracting” each other, and get to the signing before Peter and Sophie-Anne entered the room without “distracting” each other in the tunnel was anyone’s guess!
The telepath entered the bathroom and stripped off her shirt, which had been smudged with some of Jade’s blood when she’d embraced Eric following the battle. Her bonded had already stripped and was in the shower, cleaning himself at vampire speed.
Sookie finished disrobing and took a deep breath as she watched her beloved behind the glass of the shower door. She frowned a little as she noted all the blood going down the drain. Eric had killed Jade in a horrible way, and he’d relished in it! Her Christian upbringing fought against all of the lessons she’d been learning about justice in the Supernatural world.
Did she have any doubt that Jade deserved to die for what she’d planned to do?
Would she have preferred it if Eric had killed her instantly—rather than prolonging her death?
Sookie shut her eyes tightly; she couldn’t help but to relive the memory of Jade’s head popping from her body due to Eric’s prolonged pressure upon her neck. There had been nothing quick in her death as her bonded had punished Jade and had relished in her helplessness.
Could Sookie live with his brutality?
She opened her eyes to see that Eric had paused his shower and was looking at her closely, his head tilted a little. She knew that the vampire in front of her loved her more than anything. She knew that he would not kill a random person in the same way that he’d killed Jade; indeed, she believed in Eric’s ethics enough to know that he wouldn’t kill a random person at all! Moreover, she knew that Eric’s actions always stemmed from his honor—his loyalty.
“I love you,” she said as she opened the shower door to join him under the water.
“I love you,” her vampire returned. Sookie immediately put herself into Eric’s arms and simply rested her head against his strong chest for a moment.
“I wish we had more time,” the telepath sighed, even as she attempted to step back from him in order to begin her own washing.
Tightening his embrace, Eric didn’t let her. “I am tempted to skip the signing so that I can have you in this shower,” he growled roguishly.
“I’m tempted to let you,” Sookie breathed. “But we both have duties left to do tonight.”
With a final squeeze and a kiss to his bonded’s forehead, Eric began to wash her—again using vampire speed. Sookie simply smiled and let him, enjoying the odd sensation of her bonded so quickly bathing her. They’d run late enough times—due to their extracurricular activities—to have had to perform similar quick-cleansing operations before, so she was used to them. Within a minute, he’d somehow managed to shampoo and condition her hair, bathe her body, and rinse her off.
As he turned off the water, she chuckled. “A new record.”
He grinned. “Let’s see if I can break another one—as I dry you off.”
Sookie stepped out of the shower and lifted her arms. She smirked. “Go for it, and do the towel thing on my hair. It has to be at least mostly dry for me to do any kind of styling—not that I’ll have time to do the updo I’d planned.”
“I like it down anyway, Lover,” he smiled, even as he went to work on her with a towel. In what seemed to be seconds, her body was dry. And then he had another towel around her head, moving it at such a rate that it seemed to vibrate around her head. She moaned at the feeling.
“I’d really like to get you dirty again,” Eric growled. “And if you continue purring as you are, I might not be able to resist—commitments to my monarch be damned!”
Sookie giggled, but somehow held in her moans as Eric finished. She could feel that her hair was only a little damp, thanks to his attentions. “Thanks,” she said as he began his own towel-off.
He acknowledged her thanks by pausing his movements and leaning down to place a tender peck on the lips.
“Later,” he promised.
“Definitely,” she agreed.
His eyes glistening with affection, he gave her another peck and was just leaning away when fear clouded his vision.
“What is it?” Sookie asked, her concern clear.
Eric shook his head as the feeling went away.
“That feeling again—dread.”
“That’s the third time you’ve felt that, isn’t it?” Sookie asked with concern.
“Yes,” Eric responded.
Sookie was thoughtful for a moment. “What gives you dread?”
“The thought of losing you,” Eric answered without hesitation.
“Who gives you dread?” she followed up.
Eric’s face alit with recognition. “Appius. My maker gives me dread.”
Sookie reached out to take his hand. “Could he be nearby?”
Eric shrugged. “I cannot be sure. He is a master at hiding himself in our bond. All I know is that he lives on.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “We can face anything together. I truly believe that.”
Eric leaned down until they were forehead to forehead. “So do I.”
They took a moment to bask in their love and to send each other comfort and strength through their bond. Those feelings echoed and grew between them.
“Let’s get ready,” he finally said—though softly.
The telepath nodded and began to brush through her hair, thankful that Eric’s drying technique had maximized her hair’s natural waviness.
It was when she was putting on her dress and he was putting on his tuxedo that he paused again. “If anything goes wrong . . . .”
“I’ll come right back here. You too,” she ordered. “No matter what—we don’t separate,” she added firmly.
“I agree,” he nodded, even as he took in her appearance in her ice-blue dress. “You look beautiful, Lover.”
She grinned. “You only call me that when you want to rip my clothes off of me, Mr. Northman,” she said as she approached him to smooth his lapel.
“You don’t know how much I want that,” he replied passionately. “How much I want to keep you locked up in here and safe—until I can get us home and safer.”
She put her hand onto his cheek. “I wish the queen would just relent to one of those good intention spells around the ballroom.”
Eric scoffed. “That would be diplomatic suicide. Too many people come here wanting to cause her harm or—at least—to take something from her. A spell cannot tell a crooked politician from a potential assassin, I’m afraid. However, she has finally opted to have Octavia and Amelia construct an ill-intent spell around her private quarters and the hallways leading from her office to them.”
“After tonight, I don’t blame her,” Sookie sighed. “Too bad they can’t do it right away,” she added with a shiver as she turned to put on a necklace Eric had gotten her to mark their blood bond. The large, elegant ruby pendant, shaped like a drop, didn’t exactly match her dress, but Sookie didn’t care. Though the piece was extravagant, she’d accepted the gift without any protest when Eric had told her what it was to commemorate. The night he’d given it to her was doubly special in her mind because he had asked her to pledge to him. She’d happily said “yes,” and the two were planning a small ceremony to take place on the first Saturday in March.
“At least Amelia and Octavia will be at the ball—and ready to use their magic if there is a threat tonight,” the vampire stated as he took over the clasping of the necklace from his bonded when she missed the fastener on her first try.
“Do you think that Octavia should go to Andre’s safehouse? To see if she can sense what’s goin’ on beyond the magical spell he put up? Or Padma?” Sookie asked of the strong witch and the vampire guard, whose gift related to the detection of magic.
Eric considered for a moment and then shook his head. “Octavia would have to use magic in order to try to bring down Andre’s spell, and that would alert whoever is inside to her presence. And—to be frank—I don’t want one of our people anywhere near such an unknown situation.”
“Your feeling of dread?” Sookie asked.
“I don’t know,” the vampire answered honestly. “Something about the Bill situation seems off though.”
Sookie sighed loudly and joined his eyes in the mirror. They both had looks of concern on their faces.
“You have my back and I have yours,” Sookie said with surety. “No one can come between that.”
“Not even my maker,” Eric vowed, though he couldn’t quite share her complete confidence in that moment.
Spinning her around he gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead.
“Are you gonna save me a dance, handsome?” Sookie asked, hoping to add a little levity to the moment.
“All my dances are yours,” he responded with a grin. “But I’m sure that the tiger will be upset.”
Sookie chortled. “I bet he flips his lid when he takes a whiff of me.”
“You are certain you want to come out as mine—my bonded?” Eric asked.
She nodded. “It’s not like I could have stayed covert for long.” She took a deep breath. “No. When I decided to be a telepath for hire, I also decided to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t. It would defeat the purpose to try to hide who I am now.”
“Plus, I want everyone to know that you are mine—Weretigers included,” Eric smirked.
“And I want everyone to know you’re mine, Mr. Northman,” the telepath smiled as she laced her arm into Eric’s.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 11:20 p.m.
Eric and Sookie entered the ballroom just minutes before the signing of the betrothal contract was to occur. The telepath took a deep, nervous breath as she noted that she was among the elite dignitaries who had been invited to witness the signing before the ball started.
“What is it?” her bonded asked softly.
“Only that I’m very far from bein’ a waitress,” she whispered back.
Eric smiled at her, even as he took in the people in the room. A U.S. Senator, the Governor of Louisiana, and the Mayor of New Orleans were all present with their wives, representing the power structure in the human government. The two packmasters from Were groups in and around the New Orleans area were also present with their families. The other Louisiana vampire sheriffs were in attendance, as were some sheriffs from Arkansas and other surrounding states. In addition, two monarchs were present: King Russell Edgington of Mississippi, who was—arguably—Sophie-Anne’s closest ally, and King Ian Bowles of Tennessee, who was Peter’s. In addition, Hyun-Ae Kim, a representative of the Vampire Council, was in attendance. All others invited to the ball would not be allowed to enter the ballroom until ten minutes to midnight.
“Well—if it isn’t the intrepid Sheriff of Area 5!” Russell Edgington purred, approaching Eric and Sookie. A good-looking human of Mediterranean descent accompanied him.
“Russell!” Eric greeted the Mississippi king with a nod. “I thought you’d declined your invitation.”
“Ah—well Talbot here was in the mood for a ball!” Russell responded. “Tell me—have you met my human companion?”
“I don’t believe so,” Eric said politely, even as Sookie squeezed his arm twice in quick succession. The signal meant that nothing in Talbot’s brain indicated any trouble.
“I see that your lovely companion is here—though the last time I met her, she smelled much less you-like,” he chuckled. “Hello, Miss Stackhouse.”
“Hello, Your Majesty,” Sookie said with a slight curtsy. “We’re very sorry for all the shenanigans the last time we met,” she added charmingly.
Russell laughed heartily. “No harm done! Tell me—did Bubba make it back home safely.”
Sookie nodded. “Yes—but he didn’t accompany us here for obvious reasons.”
The main reason being that his true existence was still covered up by the vampires who knew about him.
Russell chuckled. “Of course, though I am glad to be ‘in the know’ about him now.”
Sookie looked momentarily worried; Bubba was a gentle soul and fragile when confronted by his past life.
“Don’t worry, Miss Stackhouse,” the Mississippi king said, softening his smile. “His secret is safe with me and mine.”
“Thanks,” the telepath said sincerely.
Just then, John Quinn entered the room dressed in bright, shiny clothing.
“I see that Mr. Clean and a genie have procreated,” Russell stated flatly.
Sookie couldn’t hold in her snort of laughter, drawing the attention of the Weretiger who took in her appearance with hungry eyes, but also with some confusion about why she was in the room, given her “lower” status. Likely, he was also nonplussed that she was on Eric’s arm.
“Just wait till you catch a whiff,” Sookie said under her breath. Eric made sure that Sookie felt his amusement through their bond.
“Attention honored guests!” Quinn said with a raised voice.
All eyes in the room turned toward him.
“You have all been invited to witness the signing of the betrothal contract between Their Royal Highnesses, Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq of Louisiana and King Peter Threadgill of Arkansas!” he proclaimed.
At that moment, Peter entered from the north side of the large circular ballroom, even as Sophie-Anne entered from the south side.
Eric and Sookie gave each other a significant look as they noticed that Sophie-Anne was accompanied only by Wybert, Sigebert, and Hadley. Apparently, Andre hadn’t reappeared yet.
Both members of the bonded pair sent caution to the other, causing them to smile slightly at the similar track of their thoughts. Andre’s absence was significant; they just didn’t know how or why yet.
Jennifer Cater was accompanying the king, who looked dashing in his tuxedo and full regalia.
The two monarchs met in the middle of the room where a small table was set up. There, Quinn had placed a formal copy of the betrothal agreement and two special quills, with which the monarchs would sign the document in blood.
Quinn motioned for Peter to begin.
“I am honored this night to betroth myself to Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq!” Peter said loudly and confidently. “May our alliance be strong and mutually beneficially to our states and ourselves!”
With that, the King of Arkansas took one of the quills and pressed its sharp edge against his left palm, drawing blood. Then he signed the document.
Quinn looked Sophie-Anne’s way.
She stepped forward a little. “I am honored this night to betroth myself to King Peter Threadgill. May our alliance be strong and mutually beneficially to our states and ourselves!”
Similar to the king, she used a quill to sign her name in blood.
“Your declarations have been witnessed and recorded. May your union thrive!” Quinn said loudly.
“May your union thrive,” repeated the others in the room.
“King Peter Threadgill and Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq happily announce that their official pledging will take place tonight—if the Vampire Council approves of the match!” Quinn announced excitedly.
Both monarchs looked toward Hyun-Ae Kim, who took a step forward. “I speak for the Council. There are no objections.”
“You don’t wish to wait for Rhodes?” Russell asked, brazenly breaking into the ceremony and earning a glare from Quinn.
“We are impatient,” Sophie-Anne winked at the Mississippi king.
Russell gave her a nod of the head and chuckled merrily. “Well—it is Valentine’s Day! And Arkansas is a tasty dish!”
Peter pulled at his collar a little, but still winked at Russell.
Clearly nonplussed by the interruptions, Quinn continued, “The wedding will take place at the end of the ball—at 3:00 a.m. This concludes this portion of tonight’s festivities. The ball will officially begin at midnight!”
With that, Sophie-Anne gave Eric a significant look and then moved her gaze toward the door at the east side of the room—where the monarchs were headed. Clearly, the queen was looking for Eric and Sookie to join her and Peter.
“Excuse us,” Eric said to Russell. “I believe my queen has summoned me.”
“I hope you will save me a dance, Miss Stackhouse,” Russell requested.
Sookie gave the king a crooked smile. “Sorry, Your Majesty, but my dance card’s already been filled up.”
Russell chuckled merrily. “I see that it has,” he remarked as he took in the possessive way in which Eric was holding on to his woman.
“Perhaps another night?” he teased.
“Probably gonna be full for the foreseeable future,” the telepath winked as Eric guided her away.
Unfortunately, before they could reach the east door, which Sophie-Anne and Peter were just leaving through, Quinn intercepted them.
“Hey, Babe!” he said excitedly. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here for this part!”
“Worried she’d see you dressed up like a circus clown?” Eric asked.
Quinn looked mystified about why anyone might insult his chosen clothing. “This is a ceremonial event,” he said by way of explanation—or justification.
“Excuse us, Mr. Quinn,” Sookie said. “But we need to be somewhere.”
“I was hoping that I could . . . .” Quinn’s voice trailed off as he inhaled Sookie’s scent. He looked at her with confusion.
“If you insult my bonded by referring to her in such a way again, I will have a tiger rug on my living room floor,” Eric hissed quietly. “Now, be a good little pussy and go chase your tail.”
“Bonded?” Quinn asked—quite loudly. All eyes now turned to the three in the middle of the room.
Sookie stood straight. After all, she’d been the one who didn’t want her scent to be covered by more of Amelia’s magic. And her status as Eric’s bonded would soon be known by any older vampires able to put two and two together—as Russell had clearly already done. Moreover, one thing that she’d learned from Pam and Eric was that vampires loved to gossip.
“Yes! Bonded!” she proclaimed proudly. “Now, excuse us, Mr. Quinn. We are needed elsewhere.”
For a moment, the Weretiger seemed like he might stay in their path, but he wisely moved away.
“What is it with you and mouth-breathers?” Eric chuckled softly, though a good proportion of the people in the room could still hear him.
Sookie giggled. “I have no idea. Clearly, I much prefer non-breathers.”
A/N: So—just a little interlude. I was needing an Eric and Sookie connection after all that Appius yuckiness. And, of course, this chapter gets us closer to midnight, the start of the ball. I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
Please leave me a comment if you have the time and/or inclination.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!