“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”—James Thurber
Exactly sixty minutes before sunrise, Eric got out of bed carefully so that he wouldn’t disturb Sookie. Quickly, he gathered the things he wasn’t leaving behind and took them to the car before he put the ice blocks into the cooler.
“Hey,” came Sookie’s sleepy voice from the entryway to the kitchen.
“Hey,” he repeated as he looked at the contents of the refrigerator with some confusion. “I am not sure what you’re going to need for your breakfast.”
“Just coffee and cereal,” she said. “Oh—and milk for both.”
He nodded and began to pack the cooler with the other foodstuffs.
She chuckled as she started her coffee.
“What?” he asked.
“The thought of you packing anything other than blood into a cooler is—well—it’s funny.”
He smiled back, “I cannot say that I have ever packed a cooler with human food.”
She gazed over his shoulder as if examining his work.
“Hmmm,” she sounded.
“You have a critique?” he smirked.
“Yes,” she responded as she grabbed a bowl and poured in some cereal.
“Well?” he asked with a raised brow. “Let’s hear it.”
“It’s just that granola bars and potato chips don’t need to be in the cooler.”
“Does being in there harm them?” he challenged.
“Only if moisture gets inside the packaging,” she answered with a grin. “Things that don’t have to be kept cold—I put in this,” she said holding up a reusable grocery bag.
He winked at her and then gave her a playful look that stopped her heart for a moment.
In a flash, Eric had put all the groceries into their appropriate containers. He grabbed the empty TrueBlood bottles and zipped them to the garage as Sookie squeezed her hands into tight fists and worked to get her heart rate back to normal. She sighed to herself. Eric Northman really was too handsome for his own good.
Eric continued to load the car as she ate her small breakfast and then readied her thermos for the road. Eric indicated that the trip that day was only four hours, so she would wait to eat her lunch until she had arrived in Fredericksburg.
She looked up as Eric reentered the room. He had a map in his hands as well as a piece of paper with codes written on it. He began to talk her through the map. She would be taking Interstate 10 again, traveling west toward San Antonio, which she would skirt to the north.
She sighed longingly.
“What is it?” he asked curiously.
“It’s just that I’ve always wanted to visit San Antonio—to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Maybe next time,” she said with another sigh.
“List them,” Eric returned.
“The places you want to go—list them. If we live through all of this, we will deserve a,” he paused, “vacation—yes? And beyond that, there will be much time for us to explore the world—together.”
She looked at him a little uncertainly. “You’re sure?”
“Yes, Sookie,” he responded as he reached out to lightly stroke her cheek. “I have seen many places. I would like to see them with you now.”
She smiled and leaned into his touch. “Okay. I’ll start a list.”
He nodded and then dropped his hand in order to show her the rest of the route. She would stay on Interstate 10 until she was near Comfort, Texas, at which point she would turn north onto Highway 87, which would take her into Fredericksburg. The place they would be staying at was an old house, which had been converted into a duplex, but there was a private entrance for Eric’s half of the building, and there was a private garage as well.
Eric pointed out a couple of small towns along the route, which would be good to make stops in, but the actual selection of stops would be left up to Sookie.
“You will do fine,” he said when he felt her nervousness.
She smiled up at him. “Thanks.” She shook her head a little. “I’m still getting used to the fact that you can feel what I feel. What’s it like?”
He pondered for a moment. “I imagine it is similar to your telepathy in a sense. Your feelings filter into my consciousness.”
“And you can tell your own feelings from mine?”
He nodded in affirmation. “You can distinguish your own thoughts from the thoughts of others—yes?”
“Yes,” she answered. “Definitely.”
He smiled. “Well—it is the same with your feelings, except . . . .” He paused.
“When we are feeling something similar, my feelings and yours seem to come together to a certain extent; they overlap and feel stronger. It’s,” he paused, “nice to not feel things alone.”
“Oh,” she said, not knowing what else to say. She did know that she’d be adding that to the list of things she needed to contemplate as she considered the vampire bond. “I’ll be ready to go in a few minutes.”
Eric nodded as Sookie rinsed out her bowl and spoon and put them into the dishwasher. She hated starting a load for only a couple of dishes, but it was probably safer that way. After quickly brushing her teeth and hair, Sookie put on some deodorant and fresh clothing. Like the day before, she went for comfort—opting for jeans and a T-shirt. She didn’t feel cold that morning, so she packed her hoodie, along with her dirty clothing and toiletries, into her suitcase before looking around the room. Eric had glamoured the Aldridges to wash all the used linens and to clean the main floor very thoroughly so that nothing of her would be found—not a single fingerprint nor a loose strand of brown hair—not that brown hair would be suspicious since Diane also had that color.
Eric had told Sookie that vampires generally didn’t count on fingerprints or DNA for tracking purposes since they relied on their senses, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She was just wondering whether she’d left any stray hairs on the bed in the basement when Eric walked into the bedroom. He was carrying the sheets from downstairs.
“I will quickly make up the bed down there with the extra sheets so that my scent is on them,” he said.
He dumped the used sheets onto Sookie’s bed, knowing that the glamoured couple would clean them too—since they were on the main floor of the house.
“Okay, I’ll finish loading the car,” she said.
After going to the bathroom, Sookie took her suitcase and the quilt to the car. Eric had already loaded the cooler and the other food, as well as the rest of their supplies. Her coffee, the map, and the codes she would need for the day were already in the car as well. Next, Sookie walked through the house one more time, making sure that she wasn’t forgetting anything before returning to the kitchen to wait for Eric.
“The potion you put on yesterday should last until you shower in Fredericksburg,” Eric said. “Be sure to refresh it right after you do, however.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“Drive to the end of the block and then take a left,” Eric instructed, pointing in the direction he wanted her to go. “Then drive straight for six blocks—to the corner of Victoria and Harbor. I will meet you there ten minutes after I make a few passes of the neighborhood and make sure that your scent cannot be picked up at all in this house. If Octavia’s potion is working correctly, there will be no trace and no trail, but there is no need to take a chance. Plus, Victor will expect for my scent to be present around the area a bit, so I intend to leave it where I can.”
Sookie nodded and got into the car as Eric pushed the button to open the garage door. It was still half an hour until dawn, and the only sign of life on the street was someone delivering newspapers. After using her telepathy, to double check that all was safe, Sookie pulled the car out of the garage and then went in the direction Eric had pointed. She made a left turn at the end of the block and then drove for six others before pulling to the side of the street and turning off the headlights.
She was a little surprised that she didn’t feel the distance from Eric acutely, but—then again—being able to rest next to him had gone a long way to making her feel better—”secure” somehow. She knew that that was because of the Fae bond requiring their closeness, but it was also because of Eric. The vampire seemed more relaxed this morning. She wondered if being close had helped him as much as it had helped her.
She thought so. She hoped so.
She also wondered if “feeding” the bond—as they’d done that night by resting together—would allow them to be more relaxed when they were not in the same room or touching each other. That seemed to be the case, but she wanted to talk with Eric about it—to see what he thought. If that was the case, however, it would certainly go a long way toward convincing her that forming a vampire bond was the way to go.
Ten minutes after she had parked, Eric landed in front of the car. Sookie felt her heart stop for a moment—not out of fear, but because Eric’s beauty in that moment was so striking. To her, he literally glowed, and with his windswept hair, he looked like a Nordic god personified. Eric looked around quickly and then motioned for her to get out of the vehicle.
“Everything okay?” she asked in a whisper, even as she tried to get her emotions in check.
“Yes,” he returned at a low volume. “I’m sure that my own scent is now well-established in the area, and once you had left the house, I couldn’t smell any trace of you.”
“But you can smell me now?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “Yes. The range seems to be about fifteen feet, but Octavia’s potion quite literally works to eliminate all traces of your scent beyond that distance.”
“Good to know,” Sookie breathed out. “So someone would have to be pretty close to pick up our scent when we’re wearing the potion,” she commented.
“Yes, and once we are out of range, there is no way to track us because the scent disappears. It is quite the ingenious potion,” he relayed.
Eric opened the hatchback and then put in the code to open his built-in coffin. He took the potion from his jacket pocket and carefully applied a few drops to his forehead.
After he recapped and then stowed the potion into his duffel bag, he turned to Sookie. “I will see you at nightfall, little one.”
She smiled at the use of the nickname. “Okay, big one.”
“Sookie?” he said with a little uncertainty in his voice.
“Yes?” she responded.
“I want you to know something.”
“Yes?” she repeated.
“I rest better when you are near me too,” he confessed. “I’m glad I do not have to try to sleep without you near me today. And you need never apologize for wanting the same.”
Sookie smiled, knowing that Eric was trying to make her feel better about the fact that she’d been unable to sleep until she was next to him. She also understood well what that confession was costing him.
“Thank you—for telling me,” she said.
He bent down and kissed the top of her head. “I will have the Bluetooth in. You can speak with me until I fall into my day-death. And I have on the bracelet too,” he said, indicating the device that could inject him with silver if she needed to awaken him in an emergency.
“Be safe, Sookie,” he added with another gentle kiss to her forehead.
Sookie didn’t have a chance to respond before he gracefully put himself into his coffin. She leaned over and looked inside, but could see only the under-soles of his shoes as the panel closed behind him. She chuckled at the sight and then closed the hatchback door before quickly getting into the car. The first thing she did was put on the Bluetooth.
“Okay in there?” she asked as she started the engine.
“Peachy,” he responded. His voice seemed to echo a bit, but she could still distinguish the smile in it.
She navigated onto the street that would take her to Interstate 10. “I suppose there are no claustrophobic vampires—huh?” she asked. “The thought of bein’ in that box makes my skin crawl.”
He chuckled. “No—I suppose not. Or—if they are claustrophobic—they grow out of it quickly.”
“Were you scared of anything like that when you were a human?” she asked.
“You mean phobias?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “Like heights? Or spiders? Or the dark?”
“Hmmm,” he contemplated. “I don’t believe so. There were things that I did fear, but the fears were not like phobias.”
“I used to be deathly afraid of snakes,” Sookie admitted.
“Well, poisonous snakes should be avoided,” he said reasonably.
“True,” she responded.
“Why were you frightened of snakes?” he asked.
She sighed. “I used to have the same nightmare over and over that a water moccasin was chasing me. It was based on a memory though.”
“When I was about four or five years old, Jason and I were playing in the creek near Gran’s house when a moccasin came right up to me; I even saw it hiss like it was going to strike me. They have white mouths—you know?”
“Yes,” Eric commented. “They are commonly referred to as cottonmouths, I believe.”
“Yeah. Gran told me later that she’d never seen one before in the creek on our property, and we never saw one after that either. I just remember thinking the snake was gonna kill me.”
“What happened?” Eric asked.
“The snake—it seemed to just stop, mid-strike. I never knew why at the time, but I can remember Grandpa Earl—uh Fintan—picking me up out of the water right after that.”
“You think he stopped the snake from biting you?”
Sookie sighed. “Yeah. Now that I know he was part fairy, it makes sense. Maybe he hit it with fairy light or something. Grandpa pullin’ me out of the creek is one of the last things I can remember about him. I think he disappeared not long after that.”
“Sookie?” Eric said seriously.
“Don’t,” he ordered.
“Don’t what?” she asked somewhat resignedly.
“Don’t do what you are about to do,” he said. “You are looking for ways to blame yourself for your grandfather being taken by the Fae. You are envisioning a scenario where your grandfather was forced to use his magic because of you and that snake. You are thinking that was the reason why Niall’s enemies found him. And you are taking responsibility for his death when it doesn’t belong to you.”
“Doesn’t it?” she asked as she saw the sun’s first rays beginning to penetrate through the darkness in her rearview mirror. She knew that Eric would be falling asleep any minute.
“You cannot know why Fintan was found by the others. And even if the scenario you are now imagining is the truth, it is still not your fault.”
“You’re right,” Sookie said.
“You’re lying to me. You don’t think I’m right.”
“It’s morning,” she said softly. “You should sleep.”
“Not until you understand.”
“That you cannot continue to blame yourself for everything negative that happens around you. The deaths of your parents were not your fault. They were killed by enemies of Niall, and it was just luck that you were not with them in that car. Your gran didn’t die because of you either. She was killed by a deranged murderer.”
“Who was looking to kill me,” Sookie said.
“Sookie, do you believe your grandmother would want you to be dead in her place?”
She sniffled. “No.”
“Sookie, I know that you would gladly exchange yourself for any of your family members, but I am glad you are here and are still alive.”
“Yes. And it is time that you honor the people you love by protecting yourself with as much fierceness as you try to protect them. And that is not just about protecting yourself from harm, little one. It is about protecting,” he paused, “the inner part of yourself—your heart.”
“I’ll try,” Sookie said, brushing a tear from her eye. “But you need to go to sleep before I really start cryin’—okay? Crying and driving don’t mix.”
“Okay,” he relented, “but think about what I have said.”
“I will,” she promised as she placed her right hand flat over the passenger’s seat. “Have a good sleep, Eric.”
“I will see you soon, little one,” Eric said before dying for the day.