When Sookie woke up, she was in a bed. Her thin hospital gown was still her main garment, though the blanket from the hospital had been wrapped around her body as well.
“How long did I sleep?” she asked groggily.
“A little over an hour—the whole flight here and a little longer.”
“Where are we?” she asked, still trying to get her bearings. “Is it safe?”
“We are in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It is safe—for now.”
“Mississippi?” Sookie asked with surprise. “Why are we in Russell’s state?”
“This is the first stop on my escape route,” Eric said from across the room. “Trust me—I never expected to be running from the king of Mississippi when I came up with the route,” he intoned. “But,” he paused, “Russell won’t suspect that I’d put myself this close to the lion’s den. That would just be,” Eric paused and continued a little playfully, “completely idiotic.”
She turned her head toward Eric’s voice, even as she tried to shake the cobwebs out of her head. “Escape route?”
“Yes,” Eric said simply.
“Escape to where?” she asked, as she sat up a little. She immediately felt light-headed and lay back down.
“Do you really believe that I would tell you that, Sookie?”
She smiled. “No.” She took a deep breath. “So? What now?”
“You have more choices to make, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric said as he walked toward her. His expression was half-predatory and half-subdued. The paradox was disconcerting for Sookie—especially given her weakness.
“Choices?” she stammered a little. “I thought I already made my choice. I left the hospital with you, after all.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “But there are two more choices you need to make before morning, and what you choose will determine what we do from here.”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked.
“I’ll tell you that part in a while, but first, you must make your second choice of the night,” Eric explained.
“You must decide whether or not to take more of my blood.”
She sighed. “Does everything come back to blood?”
“Yes,” Eric answered quickly. “I am vampire. Everything comes back to blood for me.”
Sookie swallowed hard. “What would it do to me? I mean—I know I might just be splitting hairs here since you already saved my life with your blood tonight, but . . . .” She stopped for a moment. “But I just need to know. I don’t wanna become a vampire, Eric.”
The Viking sighed. “That’s too bad. It would be the best way to keep you safe. I thought about turning you as you slept. It would solve some problems—though it would create others.”
She gasped at his honesty and then recoiled in fear.
He chuckled. “Do not fear me, Miss Stackhouse. I had the thought for only 2.3 seconds before I discarded it. It would not fit in with my plans.”
“Your plans?” she stammered.
“Correct,” Eric said. “Plus, I recognize that you do not wish to become vampire—at least not right now. And—though you might have been told otherwise—I am not a monster.”
A hint of a smirk ghosted her lips as her eyebrow arched. “Really?”
He chuckled again, enjoying the slight challenge in her tone. “I am not that kind of monster,” he corrected.
“So—the blood?” she pushed.
“It would—obviously—heal you. It would tie us together more strongly.” He sighed. “With my blood in you, I already have the ability to control your emotions to a certain extent.”
“How?” she asked.
“Tell me—have you dreamt of me?” he leered.
She bit her lip and nodded. “Yes.”
“Your endorphins and hormones can be controlled by my blood, Sookie,” he reported. “A vampire can send dreams or can attempt to control the chemistry of your body while you are awake; however, that would be more obvious to you. It is almost like a glamouring inside of the blood, and I believe you would be able to feel it—if you knew what to look for.”
“Feel it?” she asked.
“Perhaps,” he said. “I am not sure. I have not tried to control you, though I have sent you dreams—two of them.”
“But why would you send me the dreams you sent me?” she asked without thinking.
Eric gave her a curious look, but then brushed off her question. “We do not have time for a discussion of your dreams right now. Suffice it to say that my blood is the catalyst for your having them, but I do not have the ability to control their content—though the impulse I have as I ‘send’ the dream will help to determine the dream’s ‘mood.'”
For a moment or two, Sookie thought back to the various dreams she’d had about Bill since taking his blood. Then she shivered a little as she thought about some of the times when she felt as if he were trying to influence her from the inside out. During those times, she’d not understood what he was trying to do. She’d thought that she’d been feeling love and concern for him.
“Bill,” she said softly.
“What about Compton?” Eric said, his tone suddenly harsher.
“At the hospital earlier. When he was tryin’ to get me to let him handle things. Did he?” Her voice caught.
“Did he use his blood to stimulate the hormones in your cerebral cortex to produce the rise in fear you felt? Yes. I felt his blood doing it. Did he do that with the aim of manipulating you? I believe so.” He paused. “Has he done similar things to you since you first took his blood?” He kept answering his own questions. “He likely has.” He sighed. “I could have blocked him from doing it tonight, but instead, I asked my own blood to piggy-back onto his—in order to make his actions more noticeable to you.
“Have you?” she asked defensively, her eyes angry and challenging. “Have you done similar things since I first took your blood?”
“Don’t you remember? I am not a monster,” Eric answered with a smirk.
“At least not that kind?” she asked with a half-smile.
“No. Not that kind,” he responded. “Though—because of your frustratingly stubborn ways—the thought of controlling you is tempting.” His smirk grew. “I could have kept you from trailing after Mr. Compton to Jackson, perhaps. I could have stimulated your fear. Then again, I am certain that you would have fought off my influence; you really are stubborn, little one.”
“Russell would have found me anyway,” she said resignedly.
“Yes. That he would have done.”
“So—taking your blood again?”
Eric sighed. “Having more of my blood in you means that I will be able to feel you in a more pronounced way, but my main goal is to heal you. It is not the time for you to be weak, Sookie. I will not run with you if you are weak. And you cannot run on your own if you are weak.”
“So not taking more of your blood would be impractical,” she stated dryly.
“I think so. But then again, I am quite fond of my blood. You, on the other hand, do not seem to like it that much, so it will not surprise me if you refuse.” His smirk was back.
She rolled her eyes and tried to sit up a little. She was troubled when even that simple action seemed to drain her energy.
“Okay,” she said in a quiet, though sure voice.
“Okay,” he said evenly, though his eyes glistened in anticipation.
“How do we do this?” she asked.
His answer was to quickly lift up her body more gently than she might have imagined he was capable of before settling in behind her.
“Oh!” she gasped at his sudden movements.
He inhaled deeply behind her.
“You don’t need to breathe,” she whispered. “Why are you breathing?”
“I’m not. I am inhaling your scent—but not because I need to,” the vampire answered honestly.
“Because I like doing it.”
“Oh,” she responded.
He exhaled, the cool air from his lungs causing goose bumps to flare up on the delicate skin at the nape of her neck.
“I will become aroused as I feed you, Sookie,” Eric said, though his voice betrayed no passion. “However, I believe that the hospital blanket will prevent you from feeling my arousal.”
“Then why tell me?” she asked with a gulp.
“I am a large man,” Eric chuckled. “So the hospital blanket might not be enough.”
“Oh,” she gasped. “Well—um—thanks for the warning then.”
“Don’t mention it,” he said just before his fangs clicked down.
Immediately, her fear skyrocketed.
“Why are you afraid?” he asked, even as he stroked her arms a little. He wasn’t even aware he’d done it until she cringed at his touch. He immediately pulled his hands away.
“Sorry,” she stammered. “It’s just that the last time I was around a vampire with his fangs out, I almost died.”
“I intend to bite only my own wrist, Sookie,” he said softly.
She nodded and then heard the tell-tale sound of fangs biting into flesh. She shivered again and steeled herself as Eric’s bloody wrist appeared before her.
“Drink,” he said softly.
Hesitating only for a moment, she leaned forward and latched on, circling her hands around his wrist in order to hold the wound steady. She closed her eyes and began sucking.
She heard Eric moan behind her and hoped that she would not become privy to just how large of a man he was. With each pull, however, she became less and less worried about feeling something she shouldn’t. In fact, she began to want to feel more of him. She leaned back against his chest as she continued to take his bloods in large draughts.”
Just as she was becoming tempted to start moving her own body against his, Eric pulled his wrist from her grasp.
“Enough!” he said with a mixture of anger and passion in his voice. That tone was enough to cause goose bumps to break out on the rest of Sookie’s flesh.
In the next moment, Eric was out of the bed and had his back turned to her. “You will be fully healed in less than an hour,” he panted, as if he’d just run a marathon. “There is some clothing in the dresser, though it will not fit you well. However, it is all I have and will be better than the hospital garment until you can get some more. I will leave you for ten minutes to allow you time to dress and take care of your human needs.” With that, Eric left the room without even a glance over his shoulder.
The telepath sat in a stunned silence for the first five minutes of her ten and then shook herself out of her mild stupor. Clearly, taking Eric’s blood had aroused them both to a certain extent, but she didn’t have time to think about that now. Finding her legs stable, she got out of the bed and unwrapped herself from the hospital blanket before moving toward the dresser.
Its offerings were sparse as Eric had said, and clearly the clothing that was available was meant for Eric. Sookie sighed and took out the smallest looking T-shirt, some socks, and some boxer shorts. She shrugged out of the hospital gown and then put the T-shirt on. Not surprisingly, it hung down halfway to her knees. She had slightly better luck with the boxers. Though Eric was very tall, his hips were slim, so that garment stayed on her pretty well as soon as she’d folded over the waistband a couple of times. Thankfully, it had a sewn up fly, which Sookie found a bit odd until she remembered that the boxers belonged to a vampire who had no need to go to the bathroom. Finally, she put on the socks and then glanced into the mirror. All in all, she looked like a small child playing dress-up in her father’s closet, but Eric had been right; it was better than the hospital gown. She rushed into the bathroom and quickly splashed a little water onto her face and then went to the bathroom.
As she was coming out of the bathroom, there was a knock on the bedroom door, but Eric didn’t wait for an answer before coming in. His eyes quickly took in her appearance, even as hers took in his. Thankfully, any evidence of his earlier arousal had either dissipated or had been taken care of. She blushed a little at that thought.
“What other choice do I have to make?” Sookie asked, needing to break the awkward silence that threatened to envelop Eric and herself as they gazed at each other.
He seemed to shake himself from some silent debate before answering. “You have shown yourself to have some self-preservation instincts, but how far would you really go, Sookie? What lengths would you go to in order to protect yourself?”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked as she sat down onto the bed. The intense look in Eric’s eyes made her feel heavier in that moment.
Eric pulled a chair next to the bed so that he could sit down facing her. He smirked. “How did I find you tonight, Sookie?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know—your blood in me?”
He nodded. “Bingo, Blondie.”
She rolled her eyes at his moniker for her and was about to remind him of the fact that he was blond too when he spoke again.
“And who else has his blood in you? Hmm?” The sarcasm was thick in Eric’s voice.
“Bill,” Sookie said quietly.
“Yes,” Eric affirmed. “And before we left the hospital—via a daring escape from the rooftop, I might add—who was coming for you?”
“Bill,” Sookie responded, again quietly.
“So true!” Eric said acerbically. “And guess whose blood within you is trying to pull toward its master?”
“Bill’s.” She sighed deeply. “So he’s gonna just keep tracking me by using his blood in me?” Sookie asked apprehensively. “But surely he will respect my wishes enough to just leave me alone. I think I made it pretty clear to him that that’s what I wanted when I left with you so that I wouldn’t have to go with him.”
Eric chuckled. “Oh, Sookie. You are beautiful. You are brave. You smell delicious. And I dare say that you are clever—sometimes. But you are also naïve. Vampires are the most possessive creatures in existence, and once we get a foothold into a human that we want, we don’t easily give it up.”
“Like you got a foothold into me? In Dallas?” she challenged.
“Exactly!” Eric returned unapologetically. “I have never hidden the fact that I wanted you, Sookie Stackhouse. From the moment I saw you in Fangtasia, so innocent and different from the fangbangers there—from any other creature that I have seen in a thousand years―I wanted you. From the moment you spoke to me—so full of defiance and fire—I wanted you. Your eyes held challenge in them, Sookie—challenge, not fear.” Eric smiled and closed his eyes at the memory. “Yes—even at the very moment of our meeting—I wanted to take you away from Bill, fly you to my office, bend you over my desk, rip that pretty little dress off of you, fuck you hard, and then mark you as mine.”
Eric opened his eyes, ignored Sookie’s blush and horrified look, and continued. “From the moment I inhaled the scent of your virginal blood, I wanted you. But make no mistake—despite the fact that Bill took the gift of your virginity—you still smell just as sweet to me. Even now, I want to sink my fangs into your neck and drink you in.”
“What’s stopping you then?” Sookie asked, her voice a mixture of fear and boldness.
“I have no fucking clue,” Eric said honestly as he ran his hand through his hair. “I want to taste you more than I have ever wanted to taste anyone else, and you could do nothing to stop me.”
“Microwave fingers?” Sookie said with a nervous smile.
Eric’s lips also rose in a half-smirk, half-smile. “Based on what I heard from Russell, you have only one good blast in you. And I think I’m faster than you anyway, Miss Stackhouse.”
She smirked, “I could use my Southern charm to stop you?”
Eric grinned. “There’s not enough charm in the world to make me resist your smell, Sookie. You smell like sunshine in a bottle,” he said with a little rattle in his chest—almost a moan. His eyes became darker—passionate. “Like wheat right after it is harvested. Like a meadow teeming with linnaea borealis—what my people called the twinflower because of its double bloom. Like the sea when it is first hit by rain. Like all good things. That is what you smell like to me.”
Sookie’s smirk had long since faded. She didn’t know whether to cry because of the poetry of his words or to run because of the inherent threat behind them.
“I—uh—smell that good?” she asked.
Eric nodded somewhat solemnly. “Too good. You smell too good.”
“Then I’ll just have to trust you not to hurt me or to take my blood without my permission, Eric.”
He shook his head. “You shouldn’t.”
Her lips twitched upward, “You told me yourself that I should trust you.”
“In the church,” Eric responded, reminding them both of that day.
“Yes—right before you offered your life for mine.”
“I offered for Godric,” Eric said gruffly.
“You said it was for both Godric and me,” Sookie returned with defiance in her voice.
“You should fear me, Sookie,” Eric said, his tone now angry—defensive. “I could kill you in moments.”
“You have saved my life one too many times for me to be afraid of you, Eric—whether I should be or not,” she returned boldly.
Eric shook his head. “I have not saved your life, Sookie.”
She scoffed. “What do you call tonight?”
“That was the protection of an asset,” he said stiffly, as he stood up and moved across the room, his back turned to her.
“Am I still even your asset? Are you even Sheriff of Area 5 anymore?” she asked, her hands finding her hips—despite her seated position.
He turned to glare at her. “No. Russell informed me that I was to be Sheriff of Area 1, but now that I have fled, I have no position.”
“So I am not your asset anymore,” she said cheekily.
“You are! Until we separate, you are,” he said coldly, though there was an emotion in his eyes that she couldn’t interpret. “And you would be an asset to me, Miss Stackhouse. You would be able to help protect me during the day if you stayed with me.”
She closed her eyes, taking in both the truth and the harshness embedded in his words. “So you saved me tonight in order to use me?”
“Yes,” he said. “That is the reason.”
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