“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”—Chuck Palahniuk
Eric Northman was angry—really fucking angry.
When he’d first formulated the plan for Sookie to undergo a severing spell, it had seemed like the perfect solution. Bill’s blood was like a virus inside of Sookie—one that needed to be inoculated as soon as possible.
Of course, Eric knew that a severing spell would also eliminate his own blood from Sookie. However, he’d been more than willing to take on the pain of his blood leaving her body. He was a vampire, after all. He would suffer no permanent damage from the spell—even if his blood burning out of Sookie did hurt like a mother fucker as it was happening. Hell! He’d even been willing to give Sookie more blood after he found her in the hospital—as much as needed to strengthen her own systems—because he’d not been shy about taking on “extra” pain. Again—it wasn’t as if that pain would last past the day.
Before the spell, his concern for Sookie’s well-being had been only moderate. Octavia had made clear that the severing spell would be very painful for Sookie, but she’d also been confident that Sookie would survive the spell. In the end, Eric had left the choice up to Sookie. Now he was beginning to regret raising the idea to start with, for Bill’s blood was proving to be much more doggedly tenacious than any of them could have anticipated.
The woman in his arms groaned against him, and Eric tried to pull her closer.
Sookie was in agony—agony that Eric could barely monitor anymore. As Octavia had instructed him to do before the spell began, he’d already allowed most of his own blood to burn away. Only a few pieces of him held strong inside of Sookie. He’d been moving them around Sookie’s body, monitoring her heart and her lungs before sending them back to find and bully Bill’s blood left inside of her—all the while evading Octavia’s magic, which was now trying to avoid his blood as well. There was no way in hell that he was going to let his remaining blood be “caught” by the witch’s spell—not until he was certain that every goddamned cell of Bill Compton was out of Sookie!
Eric growled as he tried to pull Sookie even closer. She’d long since forgotten about her modesty and they were now fully bare against each other, though Eric had been careful to keep them covered with her cloak, despite her feverishness. Sookie seemed to be literally burrowing into his flesh, seeking every inch of him for comfort. However, he’d held back a particular nine and three quarters inches of himself from her, knowing that when she came back to herself, she’d thank him for that. As she had wiggled against him in ways that he would have delighted in on any other day, she’d managed to feel about every other inch of him with every inch of herself.
However, nothing sexual had happened between them in the many hours that she’d been riddled with pain. Eric had surprised himself by not taking advantage of the situation. Not taking advantage had been—to say the least—hard. Very hard.
Nine and three quarters inches hard.
Even now as she pulled him so that he was practically on top of her—which had been her preferred position for the last hour—her nipples were taut against his torso, and her face was rubbing against his neck as if she were a vampire marking her mate. Her sex, though not wet, was hot, and it was pushed firmly against his thigh, even as he pointed Eric Junior in the opposite direction. Her legs were ever-moving snakes, winding around his legs and waist before rewinding again and again. There was an almost foot difference between their heights, but their bodies—even in the midst of the spell and the pain involved with it—were in perfect concert with one another. Her body fit over his, under his, and next to his as if it had been built to be coupled with his.
Yes—on any other fucking day, he would have buried himself to the hilt in her, making their physical connection even more complete.
Even more intense.
But today, he’d already experienced the kind of pain that she was now feeling. It had felt like silver burning him from the inside out, and when he’d let go of her hand, it had felt like the sun. But then she’d held him. He shook his head, trying not to dwell on the salve that her touch had provided for him. That touch had felt more right than anyone with as many sins as he was guilty of deserved.
He groaned out loud as she grinded against his thigh. However, instead of letting himself feel the pleasure of Sookie’s fingernails once more digging into his shoulder blades like a lover, he concentrated on listening to the sound of her haggard breaths. Instead of marveling in the smoothness of her breasts against his ribs, he thought about the uneven beating of her heart. Instead of enjoying the softness of her sex, which was now so close to his own that the heat from her core seemed to be teasing his cock, he focused on his blood still left inside of her body.
It was only an hour before sunset now, and Bill’s blood had yet to completely leave the building—so to speak. When Eric had last glanced away from Sookie as he’d grabbed the final bottle of water so that he could make her drink to replenish the fluids that she was sweating out at an alarming rate, he had noticed concerned looks on both Octavia’s and Amelia’s faces.
Eric understood well the necessity of being done with the spell before sunset. When Bill woke up, he might have the ability to activate his blood to fight against the severing—despite the spell around the house. And that would prolong Sookie’s agony. More importantly, however, Bill might figure out that Sookie was alive and that magic was being used to remove his blood from her.
However, if the spell could be completed before sunset, then Bill would simply awaken with Sookie gone from him. And that would be best for all involved!
For one thing, it would help to protect Octavia. There were only a few witches in the Western Hemisphere who were powerful enough to attempt a severing spell—and there were even fewer with the audacity to try one without the “permission” of the vampire involved in the tie. Eric knew that Octavia was very good at self-preservation and that her half-demon husband was even better at it, but the vampire didn’t want any trouble to visit the witch.
Even more, however, Eric knew that Bill would assume the worst when he woke up to find the blood tie gone. Eric recognized that Bill already despised him, though he didn’t have a complete understanding of the source of that hatred. However, if the blood tie were suddenly missing, Bill would assume that Eric had killed Sookie. That would finally give the Civil War veteran a “real” reason to hate him.
Eric had seen Bill at court quite a few times since the younger vampire had been brought in to be Sophie-Anne’s procurer. Perhaps Bill was still pissed off by the run in they’d had in San Francisco more than a century before. Eric had caught Lorena and Bill draining prostitutes in a very overt way. At the time, Eric had been working as an investigator for the King of California. Bill had squared off against Eric then—seemingly untaught about the need to respect one’s elders. However, Eric had been mostly amused by the younger vampire. The king had ordered that he do nothing other than give the duo a warning and a slap on the wrist, so that’s what he’d done.
Eric shook his head. Lorena had been a sorry excuse for a maker. And Bill—in his opinion—should never have been made a vampire to begin with. He was too “sensitive”— sentimental in a destructive way. Emotions could have their place, but Bill was overly-emotional and didn’t seem able to control his actions where those emotions were concerned. That inability was crystal clear when it came to Sookie. Eric had no doubt that Bill had ultimately become obsessed with her, something the younger vampire had labeled as “love.”
Given what Bill had been doing to Sookie—and what he’d wanted to do to her by making a bond without giving her a choice—the Viking knew that Bill didn’t actually love Sookie, the woman next to him. No—Bill loved a false idealization of her. She was Southern and had been raised with manners that made Bill feel nostalgic for the human life he still felt robbed of. She could offer him “humanity.” And it didn’t hurt that Sookie had been naïve and untouched—the embodiment of Bill’s fantasy to recreate his “first” life.
The fiery side of Sookie—the part that had attracted Eric the most—was clearly not on Bill’s list of favorite things about her. In fact, Eric had seen Bill actively trying to stifle Sookie’s stubborn and fierce side more than once, beginning on the first night he’d met Sookie at Fangtasia. Before she had said ten words to Eric, she’d “sassed him.” Eric smiled; he’d deserved it, and he’d respected her immediately for her unwillingness to take shit from him—her decision not to be afraid of him. However, Bill had tried to stifle her.
Moreover, Eric had noticed other moments when Bill seemed to be hindering Sookie from being herself. Perhaps, Bill had been trying to mold her behavior so that she would become a more pliant and “pleasing” version of herself; in that way, she would have been more likely to survive in Sophie-Anne’s court. But, just as likely, Bill had been using all of the weapons he had in his arsenal—including his blood inside of Sookie—to try to turn her into his own version of a Stepford wife. Knowing Sookie, she had opened herself up to him, trusted him completely. Eric had no doubt that Bill had used all that to his benefit too. And—given the psychological torment that Eric had witnessed from Sookie when Octavia was interrogating her—Compton had taken advantage of and then added exponentially to the emotional damage he’d first perceived in Sookie.
Eric closed his eyes and held Sookie as close as he could, squeezing her as hard as he dared to ease her pain. Even now Compton was hurting Sookie. His remaining blood was weaseling around Sookie’s body, looking for places where it could hide, searching out those parts of Sookie that she had always kept hidden—even from herself. Bill’s blood was insidious, but the Viking couldn’t help but to admire the younger vampire’s craft in operating that blood.
Eric knew that he had achieved an age when he could compel his blood to do similar things in a human’s body. But Eric had never wanted a Renfield. And Godric had taught him that there were better ways to get what was needed from humans—without compromising one’s own blood in the process. To give blood was—Godric always said—to give power. Thus, Eric had, until recently, used glamour to influence people or to hide what he was. In Eric’s thinking, using a human’s own blood chemistry to try to fundamentally change him or her lacked honor. What he’d done to Lafayette and Sookie—by sending dreams designed to ratchet up their fear and attraction respectively—was bad enough. And he’d felt “lesser” for doing it, which was why he’d stopped—why he’d even given Lafeyette his car! However, his attempts to temporarily influence through his blood didn’t even compare to the abhorrent things that Bill had been trying to do to Sookie.
As Eric continued to allow Sookie to use his body however she needed, he thought about the times he’d voluntarily given his blood to others. During his long life, that had occurred with six beings. The first had been Godric, who drank his blood out of passion whenever Eric had gone to his maker for carnal pleasure. The second had been Pam, whom he had fed blood in order to make her vampire. The third time had been during the humans’ Second World War—when he’d been hoping to get information from the Were-bitch.
The last three times had been recent. He’d given Lafayette his blood partly for Sookie and partly for himself. He’d wanted to heal Sookie’s friend, but he’d also needed for Lafayette to heel.
He’d given his blood to Hadley for similar reasons. She was Sookie’s cousin, and—even though Hadley was the reason why the queen found out about Sookie to begin with—Eric knew that the woman clinging to him wouldn’t want any of her kin to die. However, Eric had also had a second motive for giving Hadley his blood. Where the queen was, her favorite donor would likely be as well; thus, Eric could use his blood tie with Hadley to keep a figurative eye on Sophie-Anne.
As for the blood he’d given to Sookie? The Viking had surprised himself when he’d tricked her into taking his blood after the bomb blast. Oh—he wasn’t surprised that he could be manipulative. What had surprised him was that he had wanted for her to have his blood so much to begin with!
“The blood is sacred,” Godric had told him so many times. To Eric, the word “sacred”—what he’d called “heilagr” in his human days—held many meanings. There was the religious connotation; sacred meant “consecrated” and “divine.” Sacred things were to be venerated and respected above all else; they were to be revered without question, for their worth was indisputable—absolute. They demanded and deserved devotion. And they were also inviolable—incorruptible, unable to be destroyed.
When Eric had offered his maker blood during their sexual encounters, he had wanted to show Godric reverence. When he’d fed his blood to Pam, it had been with the thought of creating devotion between them. When he’d given his blood to the Were-bitch, to Lafayette, and to Hadley, he’d had no thoughts of the “sacred”—just of the practical, which was why those occasions would have all met with his maker’s disapproval.
However, as he’d felt Sookie’s mouth pulling at his blood, Eric had thought of all of the meanings of the word “sacred.”
The feeling of his blood moving into her had been Valhalla. It had felt to him—as his blood had touched hers—as if she’d been the one in control, as if she’d consecrated his blood as it had made contact with hers, as if she’d made his essence into something as “special” as she was. His reaction to those feelings had been to smile—both in triumph and in celebration.
Of course, Eric was still a bit confused about what he’d truly wanted to accomplish by getting his blood into Sookie. In the heat of the moment, he’d operated on instinct as much as anything else. The opportunity had presented itself, and he’d felt the need to connect himself to her. So he had.
Perhaps it was a move of desperation on his part. He knew that—with his blood inside of her—Sookie would have to face the burgeoning attraction she already felt for him. Perhaps, he had hoped to influence her dreams so that she would eventually feel compelled to come to him, but—if that were true—why had he stopped sending her dreams? Why had he sent her dreams only during the day when he knew that she would be in ultimate control over what happened in them? Why had he never sent her a dream at night when he could monitor and rule her emotional response? The night he’d killed the Were at her house, he’d changed his clothing and returned to watch over her as she’d slept. That would have been the perfect time to use his ancient blood to soften her feelings toward him, but he’d refrained. However, he still couldn’t quite put into words why he’d refrained.
Eric had not been exaggerating when he’d told Sookie that everything vampires did always led back to the blood. So the fact that he’d not used his blood inside of her to his best advantage was the biggest mystery of all—at least as far as Eric was concerned.
The only thing he could say with certainty was that he hadn’t wanted to do anything that would alter Sookie fundamentally. To him, her blood had been “sacred” as he’d found it. And why try to change that which his every instinct had told him to revere—to protect? Perhaps, after a thousand years of hearing Godric’s teaching that the blood was “sacred,” he’d finally come to understand the lesson, even as his blood had flowed alongside of Sookie’s.
“I need your help, Viking,” came Octavia’s voice, though Amelia kept up her chanting. “I can feel dee rat still inside of her, but he’s gone into a darker corner dan I can see,” the witch continued.
“What can I do?” Eric asked.
“If you can chase him down with dat bit o’ blood you saved in her, den use it to show me. If you cannot, den you must get her to show you dee darkness he is hiding in. I’d thought dat I had found it all, but there is more darkness in dis child,” Octavia said ominously. “I will find it—eventually. Of dat I am sure. But if you want dis to be done before dee sun disappears into dee west, den you must help me now. I will do all I can to prevent my magic from destroying your remaining blood—for dee time being.”
Eric nodded and then quickly moved his blood toward Octavia’s magic. He closed his eyes and concentrated on leading the magic toward the particles of Bill’s blood that he could still ferret out. At first, his labors paid off, and Eric could feel Octavia’s magic surfing on the wave of his blood. However, even though his blood was remaining intact, Eric began to feel more physical pain again, and he knew that Octavia’s magic would eventually erode through his blood.
He just hoped that the cells could stay intact long enough to do the job that needed to be done.
Unfortunately, feeling even more threatened, Bill’s blood retreated, and right before the last few particles were gone, it disappeared into depths inside of Sookie where Eric’s blood could not follow.
“Her shields,” Eric said as he identified what he had come up against.
“Shields?” Octavia asked.
“What she uses to block others’ thoughts.”
Octavia sighed. “Den I’m afraid dat my magic cannot pass—unless she lets it.”
“She’s afraid,” Eric said, using his blood inside of Sookie to gauge her emotions.
“Of course she is,” Octavia responded as Amelia chanted even more loudly as if compensating for the fact that her mentor had stopped in order to speak with Eric. The younger witch’s voice was cracking, but—then again—she had been chanting all day.
“She’s been hurt by someone I did not speak to her about,” the elder witch continued. “And—if I’m right—dat hurt is tied to her gift. Dat’s why her shields are hidin’ it from us. But Bill found it. And now you must too.”
Eric looked at Octavia with concern. It was now only 20 minutes until sunset.
The witch gave the vampire a little nod and then went back to her chanting.
Eric looked down at Sookie, trying to see her face. So lost to her pain that she had not even registered that Octavia and Eric had been speaking, she seemed to be attempting to cocoon herself into his body.
“Sookie,” Eric said softly, even as he brought his hand to her chin and raised her face so that she was looking at him. Her eyes were wet with tears that seemed unending. “Sookie!” he said a little more forcefully.
“Am I dying?” she asked raggedly.
“No,” Eric growled. “Do not say that, Sookie Stackhouse!” he ordered. “Do not even think that!”
“Eric,” Sookie said desperately, “I can’t keep doing this. Tell them to stop. Please.”
“If they stop, then all of this would have been for nothing,” Eric said, even as he tried to smooth down her hair. “But if you want that, I will tell them to stop.”
“No. I don’t want that. I want him gone!” she yelled out, before sobbing against him—broken and battered by the spell that had been rattling inside of her body for most of the daylight hours.
“Sookie,” Eric said, his voice a mixture of begging and demanding. “I need you to tell me where Bill’s blood is hiding inside of you. It is in a dark place, little one, and I cannot light the way for Octavia—no matter how hard I try. It is behind your shields.”
Sookie shivered, despite the feverishness of her skin. Her anxiety immediately rose.
“I can’t,” she grimaced.
“You must,” Eric answered simply.
Sookie was shaking in her pain, her body hardly answering any command she gave it. She knew that—without Eric holding her—she would have been lost by now. She focused on his blue eyes—bluer than any sea or any sky. Something in them had always drawn her in—even before she’d drunk his blood.
She thought of the first time she’d seen them. They’d sparkled at her from across Fangtasia—a sapphire oasis amidst the black thoughts of most of the patrons. She’d wondered if his thoughts were as dark as his customers’; however, even before she’d talked to him, she’d already somehow determined that—while some of his memories and impulses might be dark—there was a lightness in him too.
Why had she warned him about the raid on his club? What would it have mattered to her—or even Bill, really—if Eric had been caught up in that raid? Why had she made demands upon Eric before she agreed to read minds to find the thief at Fangtasia? Why had she been so relieved when she found herself in his presence after the Maenad attack? What had made her find the courage to negotiate for Lafayette’s release? What had made her volunteer to go into that church to try to find Godric? Why had she trusted Eric in that church—even after she’d almost been raped by Gabe? Why had she gone to Fangtasia right after Bill disappeared? Or again the next night when she and Jessica had found the tattoo on the Were? Why had she been so happy to see Eric on her front porch the night after the Were had come for her? What had made her trust him enough to go to Jackson with Alcide when all she knew about the Were was that Eric had sent him? Why had she wanted to keep trusting in Eric despite his harsh words at Russell’s mansion? And why had she been so happy to see him looking at her when she’d woken up in that hospital bed in Rustin?
The answer was the same to all of those questions. It was his eyes.
Eric knew well how to hide his feelings, but there had always been something in that blue sea that gave him away—though Sookie had somehow intuited that very few could truly read his eyes as she could. The telepath was not naïve enough to think that the Viking had any romantic notions about her—beyond getting into her pants. However, his eyes told her that Eric Northman was not as cold—or as detached—as he wanted others to believe.
And—now—even as her body wanted to give up and her mind wanted to give in, his eyes held her. More than ever—she trusted them.
“Your telepathy has made you hear many unspeakable things—hasn’t it?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“And that is why you felt the need to develop your shields?”
She nodded again.
“I need to know the worst thing, Sookie. That is where Bill’s blood is hiding. If you tell me the worst of it, then you can be free of him.”
“I told Bill,” she stammered, even as she tried both to pull away from and to burrow farther into Eric.
“Tell me,” he cajoled.
“I can’t. Not again,” she said. “Last time . . . .” She sobbed, her body now tortured by both physical and mental anguish.
“Last time?” Eric pushed.
“Last time, Bill killed him, and now I have seven,” she whimpered.
“Seven?” he asked. He could sense that a part of her wanted to run away from him; however, he couldn’t let her go—not now.
Maybe not ever.
He carefully tightened his hold on her so that she would be comforted—and not panic—in his arms.
“Seven people I’ve killed,” she said in a voice that was almost otherworldly.
“Sookie?” the Viking asked.
“Mama and Daddy died because their car was swept from a low-water bridge,” she half-cried and half-laughed. Eric intuited that her misery and self-blame were the causes of her seemingly contradictory actions and reactions.
Eric waited until Sookie continued, even as she rasped her air. “Mama hated me so much that she needed time away from me, and even Daddy thought it would be good to have a break.” She cried out. “They were goin’ to a nice dinner in Monroe the night they died. Mama was gonna bring up sending me to an institution again, but Daddy already knew that.” Her voice grew quieter. “He was gonna agree that time. They were only on that bridge ’cause they wanted to get away from me so much. They’d be alive if it wasn’t for me.”
The Viking tried to comfort Sookie even as she tried to pull away again. “Gran was next.” Sookie shook her head and her whole body shook. “And Rene too!” she wept. “He was the first that I killed with my own hands!” She was laughing hysterically as she pulled her hands away to show them to Eric. “And Eggs; he’s my fault too. And then—just what? Day before yesterday? I killed Lorena too!”
Obviously not in full control of her movements, she wrapped her arms around Eric again and once more dug her nails into his back.
Sookie kept laughing, but then stopped making any noise for several minutes.
Eric was acutely aware of all of those ticking minutes. He gave her until there were only ten left until the sun went down before he had force the issue.
“That was only six,” he said gently.
His voice obviously startled her a little and she clung to him harder.
“Tell me about number seven.”
She shook her head.
“Tell me!” he yelled. “Now!”
His apparently anger stirred her fear and more tears.
“Uncle Bartlett,” Sookie whimpered. She then laughed erratically. “He was my funny uncle.”
Eric took a moment to process what Sookie was saying. Her demeanor told him with certainty that “funny” did not relate to a sense of humor in this case. And—suddenly—like a bolt of lightning, Eric knew what she’d been hiding—knew where Bill’s blood was hiding.
Sookie Stackhouse had been a virgin when she’d walked into Fangtasia for the first time with Bill. Eric had been able to smell the sweet blood waiting with her maidenhead. But that did not mean that she’d been untouched. And that did not mean that she’d not had to endure the thoughts of an uncle who had wanted to steal every drop of her innocence. Such men had existed in his time as well, but if they were found out, the sharp side of an elder’s sword took care of the problem.
Sookie began to speak again, but Eric stopped her by gently caressing her hair. She didn’t need to say the words. He would speak them for her, and in speaking them, he hoped to indicate to Octavia where to seek Bill’s hiding blood. Eric would have sneered about Compton’s cowardice even when it came to the blood, but he was more worried about Sookie in that moment.
And the ticking clock.
“This uncle of yours,” Eric began, “he would touch you in a way that a child should not be touched?”
Sookie whimpered and nodded, once more burying her face into Eric’s cool chest, even as she looked to escape both her pain and her memories.
“I know that he did not steal your virginity,” Eric said softly. “But he was doing other things that were leading up to that. Am I right?”
She nodded again and whispered out, “Gran stopped him when I finally told her.”
The vampire continued to tenderly stroke Sookie’s hair. “But you did not tell at first.”
“He—he said Gran would send me away if I did,” she stammered, though her words were barely audible against the vampire’s chest.
“And you believed that your grandmother would send you away—just as your mother wanted to send you away,” Eric stated in a soft tone, though he made sure that Octavia heard him.
The vampire inhaled deeply and breathed in the telepath; she always smelled of the sun, and she reminded him of the long summer days when he was a child—days when the sun would set for only a few hours before it rose once more. Her scent also reminded him of a meadow where he had enjoyed running as a child, a meadow full of chicory and wild orchids. But now—because of her tears—it also reminded him of the sea, the sea where he’d spent many a bitter night huddled with his men and trying to survive. Despite that, he’d loved the sea, but he didn’t love her tears.
Sookie hadn’t responded to Eric’s words, nor had she needed to. “You had to endure hearing his thoughts as he touched you inappropriately. You had to hear all his plans. You learned to build your first shields because of that,” Eric said with a sigh as he looked over at Octavia. The witch had a tear in her eye, and Amelia had streams of tears running down both of her cheeks, though both witches continued their chanting. Octavia gave Eric a little nod and then closed her eyes as if harnessing more magic.
“I told Bill, and he killed Uncle Bartlett,” Sookie said as if defeated. “I’d spent my life tryin’ to move on from what he’d done to me—what he’d thought about doin’.”
“And you told someone—someone whom you trusted,” Eric supplied.
“Yes,” she whimpered.
“And he killed the monster, only to leave all the blood on your hands,” Eric said bitterly.
“One day, Sookie Stackhouse,” Eric said fervently, “one day you will come to see that—though your life has been stained with blood—you are not to blame for it.”
She sobbed against his chest.
“But not today,” he soothed. “Today—all you need to do is to hold to me. Can you do that, little one?”
Though she couldn’t speak through her sobs, she nodded her acceptance.
Eric closed his eyes. He slowly rocked Sookie’s body in so smooth of a motion that only a vampire could have achieved it. His blood was now through the shield that Sookie had erected to protect herself from the worst thoughts of humankind, and, there, he found a storehouse of her hurt and her pain, caused by the things that had gotten through. They were exactly the kinds of things that one such as Bill would exploit. As expected, Eric found the remnants of Bill’s blood hiding in that damaged part of Sookie’s psyche. And predictably, in order to survive, those remaining pieces of Bill were working to ratchet up Sookie’s fear and shame. Eric used his own blood to show Octavia the way to Bill. And then he used it to soothe Sookie’s frazzled emotions as best he could.
As he hummed the ancient tune of his mother for the second time in less than twenty four hours, Eric made a promise to himself. He would see Bill Compton dead. And he would make sure he died painfully.
Russell would remain—out of necessity and his own desire for vengeance—Eric’s primary target, but the Viking prayed to Odin that Compton’s blood would one day stain his sword. Looking down at the brown head now settled into his chest more restfully, Eric wondered if Sookie would enjoy taking the kill when it came to Compton. He got a flash of her severing Compton’s head as if she were Freyja herself.
But then he stopped that thought. Seven. Sookie already felt as if the blood of seven beings was on her hands. Eric didn’t believe that Sookie was responsible for the deaths of her family members, but his belief would not ease her pain. Eric didn’t believe that she’d done anything to blame with this Eggs character either. But, again, what he thought was not what mattered. Eric felt that Sookie should celebrate the deaths of Rene, the serial killer who had murdered her grandmother; Bartlett, the monster who had molested a child; and Lorena, the sociopath who would have killed her without thought. However, Sookie was of a different ilk than Eric. He had grown up in a culture where killing was a part of life—a part of survival. When enemies invaded his village, it was kill or be killed. It was kill or watch one’s female family members be raped and kidnapped.
When Eric was a human, it seemed as if there was always a war to fight. Counting up all the deaths on his head, Eric knew that he’d slain more humans as a human than as a vampire. He’d accidentally killed a few humans in the first barely controlled days of his bloodlust, but once he had begun taking in the lessons of his maker, he had gained governorship over his urges. Of course, he’d had to kill other humans over the years—humans like the ones who burned the vampires in his Area. He’d also had to kill many other vampires. Uprisings and fights for dominance were part and parcel of being a vampire, and Eric was very good at self-preservation.
The woman in his arms, however, was not a killer. Even in self-defense, taking another’s life stirred her guilt. The uncle’s death, too, weighed on her—despite his abuse of her and despite the fact that she’d not been the one to kill him. She still felt responsible.
She’d been “taught” by others’ thoughts—even from those of people she loved and who loved her—that her telepathy was a “disability,” a handicap that she should hide. Eric could only assume that she’d never really developed her telepathic talent. No. She had spent most of her effort covering it up and shielding herself from others—first physically and then mentally—in order to survive.
But she was a survivor. Her living through the day taught Eric that.
And he wanted her more than anything he’d ever wanted. He just couldn’t explain what he wanted from her. What he did know, however, was that now that he could feel that the last bit of Bill’s blood had been obliterated from her body—only a minute before the sun melted into the horizon—he wanted nothing more than to keep his own remaining few drops of blood inside of her.
Octavia gave him a look, and in that look was a question. She was giving Eric a choice. Bill’s blood was gone. What remained of Eric’s blood could stay, and Sookie would be none the wiser. The woman in his arms had collapsed into unconsciousness as the last bit of Bill’s blood had left her.
“I can stop dis now,” Octavia said even as Amelia looked at her mentor with uncertainty.
Eric shook his head, “No.”
He closed his eyes and moved all of his remaining blood inside of Sookie directly into Octavia’s magic.
And then he let go of his blood, even as he held Sookie tighter to his chest.
Eric felt pain once more as the last pieces of himself inside of Sookie Stackhouse were burned away. But that did not hurt him as much as the ache inside of his chest when he was finally gone from her.
The pain—he had expected. The hollow throb of her loss—he had not.