Eric watched Sookie scoop out a portion of her leftover casserole. She was standing only across the room, yet it still seemed too far.
She’d slipped on the long dress she’d worn a few days before. He’d had a difficult time controlling himself that day—given the way the dress had hugged her body, concealing so much of it, yet hinting at so much more.
Now that she had given her body to him, he could enjoy doing everything he’d imagined before—touching her over her dress, nipping at the exposed flesh of her collarbone and shoulders, and slowly teasing the fabric far enough up her legs to let him taste paradise. She turned around and caught him licking his lips at the thought.
“Hungry?” she asked innocently.
“Very,” he returned suggestively, even as he looked up and down her body.
Immediately all the parts of her body he could see flushed red. He grinned boyishly. “You still blush, lover? After all we have done to each other, I find that odd.” He walked toward her slowly. “Odd and alluring.”
“Eric,” she breathed out as he began to trail kisses down her neck. His hands settled over the fabric on her hips before trailing upward and then palming her breasts. She was not wearing a bra under the dress this time, so he was able to easily pluck and tease her nipples into hard buds.
Just as he was getting ready to drop to his knees to see if the dress had enough fabric for him to fit under, the microwave dinged and alerted them that Sookie’s dinner was warmed.
He looked at her face and saw indecision there as she glanced toward the machine that held her food. Her stomach growled.
He chuckled. “You should eat, lover.”
She bit her lip and nodded. “How about you? I mean—do you want a blood?”
“Yes. Thank you,” he answered with a little kiss to her forehead as he went to the refrigerator. He was tempted to say no to the vile liquid since he had the promise of Sookie’s blood later, but he didn’t want to be tempted to take too much, and he knew that she liked it when they dined together. He could feel her contentment when they did and recognized it was because she missed eating meals with her grandmother. He had learned that Sookie longed for moments of closeness with those she valued, and sharing a meal was a simple thing.
And he could stomach a TrueBlood for that.
He took her meal out of the microwave and replaced it with his blood as she fixed herself a glass of iced tea and lemon.
“Fairies are supposedly harmed by these,” Sookie mused as she squeezed the wedge of citrus to flavor her drink.
“Lemons?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she returned. “The book Niall gave me warns about them harming the Fae. Iron does too; it’s like silver for a vampire. I’m sort of surprised that Niall gave me a book that contained a listing of fairies’ weaknesses, especially since he had to have known I would tell you about them.”
“He is not willing to protect you from his enemies now that you are with me.” The vampire sighed. “It is good that he is at least willing to arm us with this knowledge.”
Sookie shrugged. “I wanna think it’s because he cares about me. Maybe a little?”
“Sookie, if he didn’t, he would have let you die in Faerie instead of bringing you back. To him, your living with me—your being bonded to me—is a worse fate for you than dying.”
Sookie scoffed. “I don’t know if it was him that decided to bring me back. I heard a woman yelling at him that I’d die if he didn’t. Otherwise, who knows what he’d have done?”
The microwave’s dinging once more interrupted them, but this time, both of them were glad for the distraction.
Eric relaxed his hands, which had balled up into fists at Sookie’s words. He’d not known that Niall had almost allowed Sookie to die—that he’d been responsible for her having to endure more pain than was necessary. If he’d been unimpressed by the fairy before, he was doubly so now.
Neither Sookie nor Eric said anything as they carried their meals to the patio. The night was warm and still.
“Did you practice today?” Eric asked as they sat down.
“Yeah—a little,” she smiled. “It’s getting easier to call up my light. See?” She immediately produced a ball of light in her palm. “And I was able to produce three bursts in a row before my power sort of petered out.” She sighed, “According to the book, fairies are supposed to be able to produce the bursts without limitation unless they are injured. Maybe it’s because I’m part human that I can’t?” she half-asked and half-mused.
Eric nodded. “That is a reasonable hypothesis. Perhaps your fairy cousin can supply an answer.”
The two avoided talking about fairies for the rest of the meal. Instead, Eric asked Sookie to tell him more about her experience learning to ride a horse. Then, he told her about his own admiration for the majestic animals and promised that they would return to Fort Stockton when they could in order to go riding together. It was a pleasant conversation, and it was—for lack of a better word—”normal.”
Part of Eric wanted to resist what he was feeling for the woman he was bonded to by Fae magic—the woman he intended to bond with in the vampire way too. He knew that much of what he was feeling was not from him; in fact, he could distinguish what he now knew was the Fae bond thrumming even then.
But he also knew that he had to adapt to the changes that had come—accept them. He was still determined not to let the Fae bond control him, but he knew that he needed to come to terms with the new wrinkles in his existence. Otherwise, he wouldn’t survive.
After dinner, Sookie quickly took care of her few dishes and her human needs as Eric went to the living room to check his email. He found only one: a message from Mr. Cataliades. The demon explained that he would be busy for most of the evening, but would call when he could.
“How is the diagram coming?” Sookie asked as she came into the living room. Eric patted the seat next to him on the couch.
“See for yourself,” Eric said, opening the file he’d been working on to show her.
“Wow!” she exclaimed as she looked at his work. “This looks more like a blueprint of Russell’s mansion rather than a diagram to me!”
“It’s the same program that architects use,” Eric reported with a little smirk. “And here,” he said, pointing to the screen, “are the outbuildings you told me about.”
Sookie nodded. “Do you think we’ll attack him at his mansion?”
Eric sighed. “I don’t think so, but if we can get a spy in there, all this will become useful. If we can determine the level of security he has in his main residence, then we will better understand him as a whole.”
Knowing that Eric was frustrated because he’d not yet come up with a specific plan to eliminate Russell, Sookie nodded again and squeezed his shoulder. “You’ll find a way,” she said sincerely. “And now you get to have this to add to your assets!” she added as she allowed her hands to light up.
He turned his body toward her, his eyes focusing on hers with an intensity that took her breath away. “Touch me,” he whispered passionately.
She looked at her hands with a little concern and then reached out to touch his chest. Her light absorbed into him.
He sighed in pleasure and closed his eyes.
“What did it feel like?” she asked tentatively.
His eyes opened, and she was enraptured by the placid blue pools she saw.
“I feel calm and centered—focused. I feel—good.”
She bit her lip. “I’m surprised you—uh—wanted me to do that. I know you don’t like the thought that the bond can affect us.”
He sighed. “I behaved badly right after I learned of it. Octavia was right when she told me that I should accept what is good about the Fae bond. I thought I’d lost something, and I was reacting to the fact that I thought that I . . . .” He stopped midsentence.
“Loved me?” she asked carefully.
“Yes,” he admitted.
“But you don’t?”
“Do you love me?” he asked in return.
“I don’t know.” She whispered as she closed her eyes. “But I feel love for you. I feel a lot of it—the kind I have for friends and the kind I always imagined I’d have for the man I thought I’d. . . .” She stopped for a moment. “But I think some of it’s the fairy bond. Maybe?” She opened her eyes. “I just don’t know how much of it is.”
He nodded. “I feel love for you too, but—even as I do—I am not certain of it.”
He reached out and put his hand on her cheek. “But I do,” he paused, “care for you a great deal. And—that—I know is from me. I hope that you will trust in that.”
She sighed and leaned into his touch. “I do. I care for you too, Eric.”
“Maybe not love—but something close,” he whispered.
He smiled. “Our destinies will always be entwined, Sookie Stackhouse.”
She sighed. “Not Stackhouse. Not anymore.”
His smile dropped. “Surnames—family names—were not used in my time as they are used today. I was identified as Eiríkr Ulfrikson in villages beyond my own. I chose Northman almost four hundred years ago because I wanted to keep hold of my human heritage—even if it was only in symbolic form.”
“I don’t know who I am,” she said, wiping a sudden tear from her eye.
“Then take the time to choose,” he said. “You have made ‘Stackhouse’ your own, however. You have made it a name that I will always associate with beauty and strength and bravery. That was you, Sookie. Just you. For you are the only Stackhouse I have ever really known.”
She smiled. “Sometimes, I’m pretty sure that I would have fallen in love with you without any bonds or any ties, Eric Northman.”
He returned her smile. “Sometimes, I imagine what it would have been like taking you to my human father and mother and presenting you as my bride-to-be. I believe I would have done that—you know—if you had been a girl in my village.”
She gasped a little—both at his words and at the sincerity behind them, and for a moment—just a moment—she imagined that they were a simple human couple, going to meet with Eric’s parents. She imagined how nervous she would have felt—and how happy.
“Wait!” she exclaimed. “They would have disapproved of me—wouldn’t have they?”
“Of a serving wench?” he asked waggling his eyebrows.
“Oh God!” she cried. “They would have disapproved!” She looked horrified.
“No,” he said sincerely as he placed his palm against her cheek. “They would have seen your worth—my mother especially. You have a strength in you—beyond your telepathy and beyond your Fae power. It is the strength of goodness, and my mother would have admired that.” He chuckled. “And my father would have listened to her.”
Sookie’s lips twitched into a smile even as she fought to keep her tears at bay. “Thanks,” she said quietly as she leaned into his shoulder a little. “Not many people have said nice things about me like that.”
He leaned in and kissed her temple. There wasn’t anything he could say to make up for the fact that Sookie hadn’t been appreciated throughout her life. Frankly, he didn’t quite understand it. He wondered what his own people would have made of someone with Sookie’s gifts. The humans of his time were closer to the Supernatural than the humans now. The gods and goddesses were ever-present in their lives. Thus, a girl like Sookie would have been either killed out of fear or revered as a gift from the gods. He sighed. Humans had not evolved much after all. They still went to extremes with things they didn’t understand. And the girl next to him wanted only to be “normal”—to fit somewhere and to be appreciated for herself. Eric wasn’t sure he was the best individual to provide Sookie with what she needed, but he knew that he would try—wanted to try.
His thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringing. Sookie sat up nervously.
“It’s just Cataliades,” Eric said as he looked at the incoming number.
She relaxed as Eric answered and put the call on speaker.
“Good evening,” the vampire said.
“And to you,” the demon returned.
Their pleasantries over, Eric got down to business. “What can you tell me?” he asked.
“Yesterday, I contacted Russell with the information about the house in Houston about a half an hour before dawn, as I said I would.”
“And he did just as we thought he would. He made immediate arrangements that placed him in Houston at sunset. Victor went as well.”
“What of Compton and the witch?” Eric asked.
“They are still in New Orleans. Apparently, my goddaughter set up a bit of a magical wild goose chase. Compton has ordered Rasul to secure a guide and a hovercraft for later tonight. I believe that Compton is escorting the witch into the bayou,” the lawyer chuckled. “They are going to look for the source of the magic on the pouch left behind by Pamela.”
“Perhaps, they’ll run into some gators,” Sookie mumbled.
Eric and Sookie smiled at each other. “Be sure to compliment your goddaughter for us. So—what of Russell and Victor?”
The demon lawyer let out a half-chuckle, half-snort. “They were not pleased by what they found at your Houston home—I’m afraid.”
“They didn’t hurt the Aldridges—did they?” Sookie asked with concern. “The human family there?”
“No,” Mr. Cataliades quickly assured.
“What happened?” Eric asked.
“Apparently, one of Queen Dulcina’s people, Miguel Abarca, stumbled upon a scent that he knew.”
“And whose scent would that be?” Eric asked with a wink at Sookie.
“Yours!” the demon returned with false surprise in his tone.
“Oh my!” Eric said with false concern, eliciting a giggle from Sookie.
“Of course, the first thing Miguel did was to contact his queen, who in turn contacted the Authority. The queen’s people and the Authority representatives showed up only minutes after Victor had begun questioning the humans.”
“Well—I’m certain that Russell would have informed Queen Dulcina about his presence in her queendom,” Eric commented, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Against my advice, he did not,” the demon reported, a smile in his voice. “I have been scrambling to smooth things over, but the presence of the Authority agents has complicated things—as you might imagine.”
“Indeed,” Eric chuckled.
“However, Dulcina has graciously agreed to overlook the matter of Russell’s break of protocol. However, the Authority was much less understanding until . . . ,” Cataliades paused dramatically.
“Until Nan became involved,” Eric finished.
“Yes,” the demon confirmed. “I believe you are right about there being some kind of connection between Nan and Russell. But how did you know?”
“Godric,” Eric said quietly. “Russell knew more about the situation with Godric than he should have, and Nan is—despite her other flaws—not a gossip. She would have told only someone close to her.”
As soon as Eric spoke Godric’s name, Sookie took his hand in hers, hoping the gesture would somehow comfort the vampire.
“Well,” Mr. Cataliades remarked with a sigh, “it was not obvious that she was helping him, but since I was looking for it, I noticed.”
“What did she do?”
“From what I could pick up on, Queen Dulcina didn’t contact Nan directly. I suppose that was your doing?”
“Yes,” Eric answered. “I was hoping that she would get in touch with Jacob.”
The Viking looked at Sookie, who was looking at him in question.
Eric clarified. “Jacob is another of the AVL’s spokespeople; both he and Nan work for the Authority as well. Nan is based in the East and Jacob is in the West. Since Texas is in the middle of the United States, Dulcina can get away with going through Jacob, though Nan is usually the one that handles business for both the AVL and the Authority in Texas. Nan hates Jacob because he’s Roman’s child. She thinks that he got his position through nepotism.”
Sookie nodded. Eric had told her already that the AVL was simply the public face of the Authority. And he’d also told her about its leader, Roman.
Cataliades chuckled. “No—Nan hates Jacob because almost everyone prefers him over her.”
“That too,” Eric intoned.
“Dulcina contacted only Jacob,” Cataliades confirmed, “but—somehow—Nan found out and showed up on site about an hour after everyone else did. Once there, she claimed that Russell had informed her that he suspected Eric might be in the Houston area and had asked for Authority permission to begin a search.”
“And Nan claimed that she’d granted him that permission?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” the demon responded. “She further claimed that she and Russell were going to contact Queen Dulcina as soon as the veracity of the information was confirmed.”
“I imagine Nan was happy to see Jacob,” Eric said sarcastically.
“Yes—they do get along so well together,” the demon said in the same tone.
“So—where are we?” Eric asked.
“Russell is fuming,” the demon reported. “He suspects that Dulcina might be harboring you, but can prove nothing.”
“Good,” Eric said with a smile. “This is exactly what I wanted.”
Mr. Cataliades chuckled. “With Nan’s sudden appearance and Dulcina’s seeming forbearance, Russell isn’t being fined—at least not too heavily. And I was able to negotiate Russell and Victor staying throughout the questioning.” He chuckled. “Can you imagine Jacob and Nan working together to question those poor people?”
Eric snickered and mouthed the word, “later,” to Sookie.
Mr. Cataliades continued. “You glamoured the humans there well. They were able to say only that their nephew Eric was away because of his work, but that he’d been around more recently and planned to return in a week. Jacob glamoured them to call him if you returned, but—otherwise—the humans will not remember their encounter with the vampires. Nan and Jacob are each leaving several vampires and Weres to keep watch over the house,” the lawyer added.
“And you are sure that they found no trace of Sookie?”
“None. Octavia’s potion worked just as she said it would. Russell has asked me to use my contacts to keep tabs on the Texas vampires. You have introduced a few more variables for Russell and Victor to deal with. Well done.”
Eric looked pleased for a moment, but then his face fell a little. “I am still no closer to knowing how to defeat Russell.”
“But you have bought yourself more time and some breathing room. And you know how Queen Dulcina holds a grudge.”
“Yes,” Eric said evenly. “Is there anything else we should know tonight?”
“Not tonight,” the demon said. “Hunter’s teacher will be checking in with him tomorrow. I will have an update from her in the next few days.”
Sookie smiled. “Thanks, Mr. Cataliades.”
“It is nothing, dear.” Sookie heard the phone click. As expected, the demon hung up without saying goodbye.
“What is it, lover?” Eric asked.
“Supes and phone manners,” she said.
“Ah. I can see how we would seem,” he paused, “abrupt to you.”
“That’s one way to put it,” she smirked.
Eric closed down his computer. “Shall we have our swim?”
“Are you sure we should? I mean—the spell that covers our scents will be lost.”
Eric smiled. “I will do a large sweep to make sure we are truly alone. Then we will swim and bathe. After that, we will reapply the potion and our scents will be covered once more. A couple of hours will not make a difference—not out here. No one knows about this residence other than the two of us.”
“I don’t want to take any chances,” Sookie said cautiously.
“We won’t be. I promise you, Sookie,” he said sincerely. “We know exactly where our enemies are tonight. And—as I said—I will double check the security of this area before we go for our swim.”
“Okay,” Sookie smiled. “I’ll go put on my swim suit.”
Eric smirked. “I’d really prefer it if you didn’t, lover.”
Eric chuckled and got up. “I will meet you in the pool.”
Sookie rushed into their bedroom and pulled out the only swimsuit Amelia had bought for her, a white bathing suit looking like it might have once belonged to Esther Williams—at least a modern one—since it was two pieces and had only strings holding it on her. Since the desert air was getting cooler, she put on a robe over it and then padded outside. The sight that met her was one that she would not soon forget.
Bathed in the glow of the almost full moon, Eric looked like a god or an angel. His back was toward her and he was nude, his body looking ethereal as the light seemed to both absorb into and reflect from him.
He glanced over his shoulder at her, but his look didn’t hold the lust she’d expected. It was the picture of relaxation. He gave her a smile and then turned and dove into the pool. As if pulled by a string, Sookie walked over to the pool and watched him gliding under the water for a moment. His body was moving at human speed, though his strokes were inhuman in their perfection. He was the definition of masculine beauty in that moment—agile and graceful, strong and confident.
Sookie let the robe fall from her shoulders. She had dipped her feet into the water the night before, so she knew it was relatively warm even though the sun was no longer out. She continued to watch the vampire until he emerged. He gave her a welcoming smile. She was not one to dive, but she held her nose and jumping in.
When she broke the surface of the water, Eric was exactly where she figured he’d be: nowhere in sight. So she wasn’t surprised when he grabbed her in his embrace from behind, nor was she surprised when she was being dunked by a playful vampire. What did surprise her was the kiss they shared under the water before he brought them to the surface again.
They were both smiling when he did. She put her arms around his neck and drifted through the water with him as he lightly swished his feet. To Sookie, swimming with Eric almost felt like flying, except without the fear of heights. It was exhilarating and freeing—and fun.
“I love the water,” the Viking said as Sookie floated in his arms. “The sea where I am from was cold most of the year, but I still loved it. And there were hot springs near our village where we would bathe throughout the year.”
Sookie smiled, happy that Eric was sharing something of his human past so freely. “There’s a small lake near Jason’s house. My dad taught me to swim in that lake when I was little, and Jason lets me go there any time I want since the public pool in Bon Temps was always too hard for me to go to.”
“Mmmm,” Eric purred, pulling her body into his own. She shivered, but not because it was cold. “I can only imagine the lustful thoughts you would hear from men and women alike if you went to a public place in this outfit. I know that mine are very lustful, my lover.”
Before Sookie could blush, Eric’s lips were on hers, and she forgot to be embarrassed. In the next moment, she was no longer floating in the water; she was floating in the air.
“Eric?” she asked.
“Bath,” he answered simply as he flew them into the house. Her legs were wrapped around his waist tightly, and she was happy to continue their kiss. She smiled into his lips, deciding that she liked his plans very much. What wasn’t to like? Warmer water—check. Closer quarters with Eric—check. A seat next to the gracious plenty that was currently rubbing against her bikini bottoms—check, check! And yum, yum!
Somehow Eric managed to turn the water on for the tub without breaking their kiss, a fact which Sookie was more than happy about. He sat her down on the counter as the tub filled. It was then that he broke their kiss and looked at her mischievously. For her part, she used the time to catch her breath.
“Hmm,” he pondered playfully. “I wonder how many orgasms I can give you before the tub fills up.”
Sookie didn’t have time to react before he pulled the strings of her bikini, and she was bare before him. She glanced over his shoulder at the tub.
“It’s a big tub,” she said throatily. “It’ll take a while to fill. So I’m guessing two.”
“You underestimate me,” he growled as he took one of her nipples into his mouth and began to tease her clit with his fingers. He’d already discovered some of the things that set her off, and soon he was working her nerve center with his thumb while pushing two long fingers into her body. A single curve of his talented digits later, and she was shaking with orgasm one. He didn’t give her a chance to recover before he was down on his knees in front of her, tasting her release and bringing her toward a second orgasm with his rapidly-moving tongue.
“Eric,” she moaned as he plunged his tongue inside of her again and again before bringing it to her clit and sucking. His fingers found their way back inside of her, and soon she was writhing with orgasm number two.
“The tub’s only half full, lover,” he said as he looked up at her, licking his lips.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Now that Eric and Sookie have finally “done the deed,” it’s nice not to have to “fight” against that physical intimacy they’d been trying to deny since they learned of the Fae bond. It was nice to “relax” with them a bit. But—at the same time—I wanted to move along the narrative a bit.