SIXTY-SEVEN MINUTES BEFORE SUNSET
Eric woke up slightly before his usual time, and—as he’d figured might be the case—he felt Sookie’s apprehension.
He sent the telepath a quick text: “I’m up if you need to talk.”
The vampire rose from his bed as he used his senses to “reach out.” He felt his three vampire bonds as always. And then—through scent and sound—he determined that no beings were closer to his resting place than they ought to be.
Sookie replied to his text after about a minute. “I’ll keep that in mind, but Tara was here most of the day, and I’m sort of talked out. Just get here when you can. Please?”
“I will see you five minutes after sunset,” he answered before quickly readying himself for his night.
After he showered and dressed, he took some blood from the mini-fridge in the sitting room adjacent to his bedroom and heated it up. He knew that it was essential that he fed well—given the fact that he would likely wish to kill Bill before the night was over.
Not that that desire would be any different from usual.
“I’d better have two bags,” he said to himself, even as he took the first out of his special warming device, which worked much better than a microwave at maintaining the flavor of his heated meals.
Like much of the technology in his home, the item was a prototype developed by an old “friend.”
Truth be told, Eric was like many human men in that he very much enjoyed gadgets, though he tended to keep his most cutting-edge items secret.
For example, his newest gadget was designed by Kenshin, a vampire whom Eric had met in Japan six centuries before. The two had traveled together for several decades. In life, Kenshin had been 武士. “Bushi,” Eric said softly, pronouncing the Anglicized version of the word he’d first learned to describe those now more commonly known as the “samurai.”
Kenshin had been quite young—only a decade vampire—when Eric decided to journey to Japan. Not long after he arrived at court, the vampire Emperor employed Eric as an enforcer, and Kenshin—the Emperor’s own child—was assigned as his guide and translator, though Eric had already learned a good deal of the language.
In confidence, the Emperor had asked Eric for a favor—to provide his child with additional training. For—though Kenshin was well-schooled in the art of being a samurai—the Emperor wanted him to learn more about how those in the West fought. Eric did as instructed, and—never one to overlook an opportunity—he learned much from his young companion as well.
And, more importantly, he had gained a friend and ally.
Kenshin, now residing in Manhattan, owned a huge share of Chevrolet; indeed, Eric’s first Corvette had been a gift from his friend. Not surprisingly, Kenshin’s specific interests had been in the development of technology that would benefit vampires. And he’d managed to do a lot of work in that area even before the Great Reveal.
“What is an automobile,” Kenshin had once said to Eric, “if not a traveling safe haven for a vampire?”
Indeed, all of the cars that Eric had purchased from Kenshin over the years had come equipped with an impenetrable light-tight trunk, though—in the case of his Corvettes—fitting in that trunk was a challenge for the large blonde.
Luckily, he’d rarely needed to use his Corvettes as coffins.
Kenshin’s latest work was an automobile designed for vampires in Eric’s position—older, powerful vampires who did not wish to be confined during the daylight hours they could be awake. Such vampires as Eric, and—now—Kenshin himself, woke well before the sun disappeared.
“If only I’d had you in Jackson,” Eric sighed as he ran his fingers over the decidedly “un-flashy” Chevy Impala that he’d purchased from Kenshin just five months before. The car, a prototype, had windows that did not allow in any sunlight, but would allow a vampire to see out—at least in a limited way. A system of cameras was meant to augment any potential deficits in sight; that system was the part that Kenshin’s team was still working to perfect. However, with Eric’s eyes, the limited vision allowed through the light-tight windows was adequate, so the imperfect camera system was not really a problem.
Plus, Eric had tasked Molly with tweaking the cameras to improve them, and she was now helping Kenshin improve the system.
Kenshin had confided to Eric that it was his goal to design glass that would allow vampires to fully see the sun and daylight again. Indeed, he was partly responsible for the opaque glass already in use in such places as the Pyramid of Gizeh Hotel in Rhodes. For his part, Eric would likely always invest heavily in whatever projects Kenshin was working on.
Eric left his garage with just enough time to get to the Bon Temps city limits by sundown. He owned a piece of land there where he would park the vehicle, and then he’d fly the rest of the way to Sookie once the sun fully set.
After all, he did not want for anyone to have the chance to examine his vehicle. He’d promised Kenshin that no one beyond Molly and others he trusted unreservedly would know about the vehicle, at least not until it was ready to sell to Kenshin’s exclusive vampire clientele. Eric couldn’t imagine that Kenshin wouldn’t charge upwards of five million for the cars. Well worth the price!
Eric chuckled as he started the engine and looked up at the fuzzy dice draped over the rearview mirror.
Kenshin’s idea of a joke.
Bill exited his resting place with a sense of hope and confidence.
He’d carefully chosen and laid out his clothing before dawn; now all that was left for him to do was shower and wait an hour.
“Within the hour after that, I will have her back,” he promised himself.
FIVE MINUTES AFTER SUNSET
Eric landed softly, and almost immediately, Sookie opened her door to greet him.
Despite their long talks, the two had not seen each other since the previous Monday night, and their smiles indicated their pleasure at being with one another again.
With confident strides, Sookie walked to where the vampire stood in her yard and embraced him without reservation.
He hugged her tightly in return, lifting her up a little and then twirling her around once for good measure.
She giggled as he set her down but did not break their embrace. “I’ve missed seeing you,” she said after inhaling deeply in order to take in his scent.
“I’ve missed seeing you,” he echoed after doing the same.
“Would you do something weird with me? To help me calm down?” she asked.
He moved his upper body back a bit so that she could see his raised eyebrows. “I did not know that you were into ‘weird’ acts, dear one. However, I will oblige,” he flirted.
She gasped, but then giggled—before nudging his arm a bit. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Cowboy. I’m just asking you to play Uno with me. It’s a card game.”
Eric chuckled. “I have never played that one.”
“Well—I’ll teach you,” she replied as she broke their embrace and then took his hand; swinging her hand with his in a playful motion, she led him toward her front door. “I figured you’d kick my ass at Trivial Pursuit, chess, or checkers, and Uno’s a game of chance.”
“Uno it is then,” the vampire smiled. “But I will have to leave a few minutes before Bill is due—just to check on the set up.”
Sookie tensed for a moment. “Okay—but till then, distract me by telling me about how you could get here so darned fast!”
“Ah—I shall tell you about my friend Kenshin,” Eric smiled as they took seats at the kitchen table, where the game and a freshly warmed bottle of TrueBlood was waiting.
Though Eric was full from his earlier meal, he drank the beverage anyway, knowing it would give Sookie pleasure that he did so.
FIFTY-TWO MINUTES AFTER SUNSET
Eric smiled as his phone rang.
“Calling for a rematch?” he asked as he connected the call.
“I’m not the one who lost three times in a row,” she returned, a smile in her voice.
“I am convinced that you cheated,” the vampire grinned.
The telepath huffed. “You shuffled the cards and dealt them the last two times we played. Get over it! I was just luckier today—and for a while now,” she added, her joking tone shifting to seriousness.
“Me too,” he agreed, just as sincere. “Very lucky.”
“Are you close enough to hear me?” Sookie asked after a silent moment.
“Of course! I have the phone quite close to my ear,” the vampire smirked.
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” she returned. She was peering out her window toward where he stood, though he knew that she wouldn’t be able to see him because of distance and darkness. He could see her, however. Her expression showed her mirth at his teasing.
“I can see you, but I can only hear you through the phone,” he conveyed.
He could see her nodding and straining her eyes in his direction.
“I can feel you out there,” she confirmed, her smile seeming to pierce through the dark right toward his un-beating heart. “Thalia too. And Bubba. And Padma. And pretty much all the two-natured guards and Warren. Don’t you think it’s a bit much?” she asked, her smile shifting to a smirk.
“No such thing,” he said with seriousness. He glanced in the direction of Bill’s home. The inferior vampire had yet to leave it.
“I changed my mind about you being here,” Sookie whispered.
“What?” Eric asked quickly. “Sookie, I have promised to stay away unless Bill does something foolish. Please—I will not be,” he paused, “comfortable if you send me away from here.”
“Wait! No!” Sookie returned. “That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry. It’s my nerves making things come out wrong. I meant that I changed my mind about having you here—as in—uh—closer. I want you to be able to hear what’s going on, Eric.”
“What of your privacy? Your closure?” Eric asked, his surprise clear in his tone.
“It’s not like Bill deserves that,” she scoffed. “I know I’ll be safe with you as close as you are now. But I was plannin’ to tell you about Bill’s and my talk anyway, and I don’t think I’ll wanna rehash it. So it would be better if you just heard it all.”
“Sookie, he might not speak as freely if he believes that I can hear you,” Eric cautioned.
“Who’s gonna tell him you can?” Sookie asked mischievously.
“You’d lie to him?” Eric asked with a smirk. “Why, Miss Stackhouse, I think my bad influence is rubbing on you,” he said suggestively.
“It’s rubbing off on,” she laughed at his purposeful mistake in wording. “And you can keep your ‘bad influence’ to yourself, Mister!”
“For now, Miss Stackhouse. I’ll keep all the bad parts of me under lock and key.”
“Except that mind of yours,” she muttered. “And—to answer your question—I would lie to Bill. Seems only fair at this point. Anyway, tonight isn’t about him or what he wants. It’s about me!”
“I have to say that I like it when you are saucy like this,” the vampire shared even as he moved toward the house. As he cleared the tree line and stepped into the illumination of the new security light Thalia had insisted upon, Sookie grinned and waved at him.
He continued to talk into the phone. “I’ll lurk here and then seem to move away to placate Bill when he comes. He’ll think I cannot hear you, but he truly has no conception of my range.”
“Okay. Thanks,” Sookie said before moving away from the window. The vampire could see her inventorying what was on the coffee table.
“Ever the hostess,” he commented into the phone as he noted the TrueBlood on the coffee table.
“But I didn’t warm it up,” Sookie relayed.
“Oh—the scandal!” he mockingly lamented.
“Gran would have a fit,” the telepath admitted with a laugh. “Wait! No—actually she would probably be waitin’ for Bill with her old shotgun tonight.”
“Don’t be surprised when I ask him things we already know,” Sookie sighed.
“You want to trap him in his lies,” the vampire observed. “That is a wise thought, dear one.”
“I want to see how far he’ll go with his lyin’, and I’m prepared to use any traps he falls into in order to get the rest of my questions answered.”
“A good strategy,” Eric commented. “Are you ready?” he asked her as he heard Bill beginning the short trek across the cemetery.
Immediately, he felt Sookie’s tension heighten in their blood tie.
“You’ll be close?”
“You know I will be,” he swore.
“And come to me? Right after? Please? Or if I call for you while he’s here?”
“Yes. I will,” he vowed.
“Okay—then I’m ready,” she breathed. “Thank you, Eric,” she said before hanging up her phone.
“What are you doing here?” Bill asked about thirty seconds later as he approached the tree line.
“Sookie has asked me to be nearby. Did you forget so soon, Billy Boy? Tell me—did Lorena inject that noggin of yours with liquid silver—’cause you seem quite forgetful lately.”
“I haven’t forgotten you will be present on Sookie’s property tonight,” Bill soused. “However, I seem to remember that you promised us our privacy.”
“What I promise Sookie is between her and me,” Eric said evenly, though his eyes spoke of the dangers Bill would face if he did anything to harm Sookie.
Bill looked ready to argue.
“As it so happens,” Eric spoke, “I will be moving back from the house—just as Sookie asked me to do, but know this: if I feel that she is afraid, your privacy will disappear—as will your head. And the rest of you.”
Bill scoffed. “Yes, yes, Eric. I have heard your threats already.”
Eric shook his head. “One night—and I do not believe it will be many nights from this one—you will piss off the wrong vampire, Compton. And you will die for it. I truly hope I’m that wrong vampire.”
With that, the Viking sped to a spot where he could both see and hear within the house, but where he doubted Bill would be able to sense him well. Then, he watched Bill progress toward Sookie’s front porch in his skulking way.
A/N: Sorry, but no time for a long note tonight. I’m swamped with work. But—I will mention something about Kenshin. He’s a character in the Gift Horse series. I’ve recycled him a bit here, but I didn’t have Seph do a banner because I don’t think he’s going to appear in person, but I included the character plate from GH below. Speaking of Gift Horse–would anyone be up for another installment? In two week or so? Be on the look-out. It’s coming soonishly. It is called “Romjul.”
I hope you enjoyed the chapter. And it will give me a little break if you gift me with a review—if you have the time and inclination, of course.