Sookie paced for the last five minutes of the half-hour of Leonie and Eric’s private conversation. As Kuruk had built a fire, the young Werebear had watched her as if she might explode.
Neither of the Werebears could hear what was happening outside. Sookie knew that for sure, for she’d asked them both—multiple times. Elina, however, could smell magic and had posited that Leonie was purposely covering up her conversation with Eric.
As the final seconds ticked down—according to the old clock on the mantle—Sookie actually ran to the front door, but then knocked before tentatively walking outside. Since the temperature had dipped considerably with the setting sun, she had put on a wool hat and a scarf, as well as her fleece jacket.
Once outside, she looked from Eric to Leonie, who were both sitting placidly at the table; she was grateful that no blood had been spilled—at least none that she could see.
“It seems your kinswoman knows Klymene,” Eric said as he reached out automatically and pulled Sookie onto his lap.
Sookie sighed contently at the contact and then looked at Leonie with surprise. “You do?”
Leonie nodded. “Yes—we are what you would call ‘old friends.'”
“Uh—we’ve been tryin’ to get in touch with her,” Sookie said.
“I know,” Leonie said. “She will soon make contact with you, through a friend.”
“I will tell you of that later,” Eric said, pulling Sookie closer to him, needing to feel her nearer. He glanced at the box on the table, which once again held the watch, along with the picture of Sookie’s human family.
“I should go soon,” the fairy said.
“Oh. Then should I try to do the scent thing?” Sookie asked.
Leonie nodded and stood up.
Eric also rose, and set Sookie onto her feet. She looked up at him. “Today, I learned that I have already been masking my fairy scent. I just didn’t know it.”
Eric’s eyebrow rose in question.
“As soon as her spark was lit by your blood, her scent would have changed,” Leonie informed. “All Fae gifts are governed by instinct, however,” she continued. “We use them for fight or flight. We use them to conceal ourselves or to antagonize enemies. We use them for knowledge or secrecy. We use them for protection or attack.”
“So when my blood enlivened her spark . . . ,” Eric began.
“It also enlivened her ability to conceal her Fae scent, a very handy gift in a sea of vampires,” Leonie finished with a smirk.
“It’s like a faucet,” Sookie said. “Or—at least—that’s how I’ve started thinking of my scent. I can turn it up or down. But before Claudine told me about it, I didn’t even know it was there.”
“So right now?” Eric asked.
“It’s on what I’d call normal. Apparently, this is where it’s been since Dallas.”
“You smell exactly as you did when I first met you,” Eric said. “The only difference is that I can smell my blood in you.”
“Turn it down, Sookie,” Leonie said.
Sookie nodded and closed her eyes as she concentrated upon removing her scent.
Eric looked at Sookie with immediate surprise. “I cannot smell you at all; I can’t even smell my blood in you!” he added.
She smiled proudly. “The clothing touching my body takes on my essence; the only problem is that the rest of my things will still carry my scent unless I have been cloaked like this for a while, but if I keep myself like this, my scent will fade from my things, especially if we wash them carefully.”
“Do you have to concentrate to be like this?” Eric asked.
“No. Once I turn the faucet one way or the other, I can just leave it there. It’s easy!” Sookie said excitedly.
Eric looked at Leonie. “Can you smell her at all?”
Leonie shook her head. “No.”
Eric looked back at Sookie and asked her to hide in the shadows before he opened the door and called for Elina.
“Where is Sookie?” the elder Werebear asked, a little concerned, as soon as she opened the door. “Did she teleport away?”
Eric grabbed Sookie’s hand and drew her from the shadows. “You cannot smell her?”
Elina shook her head as she looked at Sookie in surprise. “No.”
“Thank you,” Eric said nodding for Elina to go back inside.
“What of the blood tie?” Leonie asked. “Can you still feel her?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. It is disorienting not to be able to smell her, but this is a good thing. It will keep her safe without her needing Octavia’s potion.”
“Would you—uh—like to smell—uh—me?” Sookie asked with trepidation. “I mean—the way I smell if I’m not cloaking at all? The real me?”
Eric took air into his lungs sharply. “I do not want to risk hurting you,” he said as his body shook a little.
“Leonie says that you can’t because of the Fae bond, but she also said that she would blast you if you tried to eat me; that’s why we wanted to try it for the first time while she’s here,” Sookie said hopefully.
Eric looked at Leonie. “Do not let me hurt her.”
The fairy nodded, a knowing smile on her lips.
Eric backed away a little and then nodded for Sookie, who closed her eyes.
Almost immediately an exquisite scent filled Eric’s nostrils, and he took a step toward her; however, he was in control.
“Do you like it?” Sookie asked nervously. “Like me?”
“Yes,” Eric answered gruffly.
Sookie smiled. “Do you want to eat me?”
“Yes,” Eric answered, waggling his eyebrows. “And bite you, and fuck you, and rub myself all over you.”
Sookie blushed so red that even the dark night didn’t conceal it. She glanced at Leonie nervously.
The fairy giggled. “I think your vampire is in control of himself—at least within reason—but you had better not stay like this for long, Sookie. The young Werebear would likely try to fight Eric for you, and poor Kuruk would die a very painful death if he did. Oh—and remember to keep your telepathy stretched out as far as possible when you are allowing your scent to come forth.”
The fairy looked at both Eric and Sookie in an almost motherly way. “I cannot say why, but I feel a strong kinship to you both. When you need me, I will come.” She smiled. “You are each other’s best assets. Do not forget,” she added pointedly before popping away.
Sookie looked at the spot where Leonie had been. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to her,” she said sadly.
“You will see her soon,” Eric assured.
“What do you mean?”
“Can I tell you later?” he asked as he took another step toward her.
She nodded and smiled. “What do I smell like to you?”
He closed his eyes as if savoring. “Your scent is sweet, like honey. You’ve always smelled like that, but now I can taste it on my tongue. And there’s more too. I cannot describe it—other than to say that it is my favorite. You’re my favorite.”
Sookie’s lips turned upward as he took her into his arms and kissed her firmly on the lips.
“I like being your favorite,” she said when he broke the kiss.
They both saw the curtains rustle a bit.
Eric smiled against her mouth. “You’d best cover your scent before I am forced to kill the cub.”
“Kuruk is sweet,” Sookie said in a whisper as Eric kissed her once more.
“You are mine, Sookie,” he said possessively.
“Yes,” Sookie admitted breathlessly. “Are you mine?” she asked, more hesitantly.
“I don’t know,” Eric said honestly. “But I will never belong to another. That—I can promise.”
Sookie smiled as she looked into Eric’s eyes. She saw so much there. She’d been worrying about what Leonie was telling Eric. She’d worried that she would tell him how scared she was to finish the vampire bond. She’d worried that Eric would be disappointed if they didn’t finish the bond.
But, in that moment, Sookie was no longer worried. She somehow knew that Eric was aware of every single one of her fears. His eyes were telling her that he knew. She toned down her scent to “normal.”
“Eric?” she whispered.
“Sookie?” he answered before crushing her lips with his once more.
“Leonie told you that I was scared to finish the bond—didn’t she?” she asked when he let her up for air.
“I’m sorry that I’m scared.”
“You have no reason to be sorry,” he assured.
“Did she tell you why I was scared?”
“I figured it out. You are afraid that you would feel my resentment and bitterness of the Fae bond; you are afraid those feelings would extend to you.”
She shivered and he pulled her closer. “I’m sorry,” she said again.
“As I said, little one, there is no reason for you to be sorry. And there is another reason to wait to complete the vampire bond too. Leonie told me that the vampire bond would likely strengthen the Fae bond, and that is the opposite of what I thought it would do. Leonie fears that if that were the outcome, then I may very well grow to have bitter feelings for you. And I don’t want that to happen, Sookie. I might dislike the Fae bond, but I care for you. You must never doubt that. Tell me you don’t,” he said almost desperately.
“I don’t,” Sookie assured.
“Good,” he smiled as he kissed her nose. “We will talk more of finishing the bond once we are in California. Until then, I would like some time to think. And you should take some time as well.”
“Excellent. Now, let’s go inside and eat our meal with Elina and the cub. Then, I will school Kuruk for a while, and after that, I will have my way with my fairy.”
Sookie giggled. Now that Eric knew of her fears, she felt as if a weight had been taken off of her shoulders. At the same time, however, she knew that her fear had transferred to his shoulders. “It’s okay. If you never wanna finish the vampire bond because the Fae bond would get stronger, it’s okay,” she whispered.
“We will talk more of it later, and we will decide together, lover.”
Eric rested his forehead against Sookie’s for a long minute. She loved it when he did that.
She loved him. And for the first time, she felt brave enough to let him feel what she felt—without trying to shield her emotions.
However, she still couldn’t say it out loud.
The young Werebear was formidable and fast, but no Were was a match for a thousand-year-old vampire. The only Were who had ever come close to besting Eric had been hyped up on vampire blood and—therefore—much stronger than normal.
But, despite the inequality of their species, Kuruk was handling himself well.
As soon as Eric and Kuruk had disappeared into the woods, their hunt had become a sparring match—not that Sookie needed to know or worry about that.
“Come on,” Eric taunted. “Don’t try to slash me with those claws of yours. Do it!”
Kuruk used the considerable weight of his body to recklessly propel himself toward Eric. The vampire smiled, even as he easily side-stepped the raging bear. Immediately Kuruk turned, showing a lot more agility and speed than most Werebears would have been capable of.
“Good,” Eric nodded with approval. “But—this time—do not come so hard at me. Maintain your control, and—as I move to the side—plant the claws of one of your hind legs into the ground and slash at me as your body turns with the inertia.”
Kuruk growled, but seemed to nod as he got into position. He charged Eric again—this time maintaining more control. As Eric had suggested, Kuruk planted one of his hind legs into the soft dirt, which jarred his body around. A normal bear’s leg would have hyperextended, but Kuruk was no normal bear, and his lithe body turned with his planted leg even as he reached out to slash at Eric’s chest.
The vampire was able to move in time—but just barely.
“Your grandfather made that move on me once—as he and I sparred. However, I wasn’t expecting it, and he was able to cut me.” Eric grinned. “If you do that to an unsuspecting vampire, you will gash him or her.” The vampire chuckled darkly, “Unless, of course, the vampire is three thousand years old.”
For another hour, Eric yelled out instructions to Kuruk, and the Werebear obeyed—for the most part. When he didn’t, Eric layed the beast out onto his back and made sure he left a bruise that would be felt for many days.
Finally, exhausted, Kuruk transformed back into his human form and put back on his clothing. Meanwhile, Eric sat onto the ground—his back to the young man.
Kuruk said nothing as he sat down a few feet from Eric. Both vampire and Werebear looked up at the stars in the night sky.
“Ursa Major,” Kuruk commented after the silence had stretched between the two for almost half an hour.
“The Great Bear,” Eric said. “My people did not see the stars of Ursa Major as a bear. Some of its stars belonged to Duneyr, a deer. Others were part of Karlwagn or Hellewagon, which is the wagon of Odin or of Thor—depending upon who is asked. Scholars these days!” The vampire shrugged. “They never agree.”
The Werebear chuckled.
“It is interesting—don’t you think—that different cultures have found different meanings in the sky,” the vampire stated.
The two were quiet for a few more minutes.
“My father wishes for me become like that bear in the stars,” Kuruk sighed. “He wants me to do so many things—great things—and I am not sure I can do them. He gave me my grandfather’s name in hopes that I would have his spirit.”
Eric glanced over at the young man. “And so you do—already—whether you wish it or not.”
Kuruk looked at Eric with a little surprise. “I don’t feel that way,” he said.
“And yet you are that way. Some things simply are, Kuruk. I knew your namesake well, and I liked him very much. You are like him.”
“Yes,” the vampire affirmed. “And if you temper that spirit with the wisdom of your grandmother, you will become even greater than my friend, Kuruk.” He smiled. “I mourned when I heard about his death. However, I will mourn less now—knowing that he has left such a legacy behind.” Eric rose to his feet and reached out a hand for the young Werebear.
Kuruk took the vampire’s proffered hand and was soon on his feet too.
“Many years ago, my own father looked to the sky and hoped that stars would be named for my deeds,” Eric confided. “But none were. However, the stars still shine despite that—and they still watch. Never doubt that they will continue to shine in order to witness your deeds. You need not have them named for you for that to be true.”
Eric turned to walk away.
“Mr. Northman?” the young Werebear ventured.
“Eric,” the vampire said. “That is the name my friends call me.”
Kuruk smiled a little. “I will remember your lessons—and what you said.”
The vampire nodded and walked into the night, anxious to return to his woman.
A/N: Hello! I hope you have enjoyed this newest installment! So many of you commented that you wanted to see Eric interact with Kuruk, so the second part of this chapter was added per your request! And I ended up really enjoying it. I hope you did too.
P.S. AS ALWAYS, THANKS SEPH FOR THE WONDERFUL CHAPTER BANNER! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE ONE FOR THIS CHAPTER!!!