Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Pam walked through the New York airport concourse headed for baggage claim. While she and Misha had texted each other during her stay in Shreveport, she realized the closer she got to the terminal exit doors, the more nervous she felt. She remembered how Misha tried to stop her from leaving New York and the cold way he had behaved when she was going out the door. She hadn’t detected that anger in the words he sent her. He asked when she would return and texted that he missed her. When they actually spoke to each other over the phone that one time, their conversation was warm, and Pam found her initial doubts about the King transforming into doubts about those who doubted Misha.
But now Pam’s doubts had returned. What if she was wrong and Misha was everything others warned her about? She almost changed her mind. She could duck out another exit or book a flight back to Minnesota. She didn’t have to walk through those doors and return to him. Pam sat down on the long row of chairs that lined the airport hallway. This was so unlike her. She was a confident, successful vampire. She made fortunes and won battles. Why was she feeling this way? She recalled Karin blaming their sire for influencing them, and dismissed it just as quickly as nonsense.
“You’re afraid!” Pam said out loud. “He makes you nervous!” and that basic fact astounded her. In all her many years, Pam could never remember one of her interests affecting her so deeply, and, standing up, she grabbed the handle of her suitcase, held her head high, and walked more quickly toward the exit.
Her eyes automatically scanned the waiting drivers with their signs looking for Andrew’s quiet face. He was taller than she, so she scaled her line of vision to where she expected to see him. She couldn’t help feeling a sharp sense of disappointment when she didn’t find him. Pam was looking away to locate her phone when, from the corner of her eye, she caught sight of her name on a sign. The driver was shorter and he held the sign in front of his face. He wore the traditional peaked cap and for a moment she thought… and then she knew. He lowered the sign and it was him.
“I thought you didn’t like to run your own errands,” she smiled, biting her lips together.
“I missed you so much I couldn’t wait one more minute,” he answered. Seemingly from nowhere, Andrew was there. He took the coat from her arm and the bag handle from her hand. He looped her handbag over his shoulder and he murmured his own welcome, but Pam couldn’t take her eyes from Misha.
The King held out his hand for hers and when she gave it, he kissed its back like a true courtier. Pam pulled away, and then reached over to remove the cap from his head. She smoothed his hair back into place and he nodded once. “Are you ready to come home?” he asked. Pam’s smile was his answer, and threading her hand through his arm, Misha guided Pam to the limo that awaited them just outside.
Inside the seating area, a bud vase held two yellow roses. Misha was looking out his window, giving her space. He laid his hand palm up on the bench between them, and, after a minute, Pam placed her hand in his. “I did not believe I could be so lonely,” he said, not looking in her direction. “I worried that you would never return. Even in the terminal, I wondered if I would watch the people leaving your flight and only then realize you had left me. It is a strange feeling, knowing I am no longer complete without another.” Pam glanced at him. She could see his dark eyes reflected in the window glass and knew he was looking at her reflection as well.
“I thought about running,” she acknowledged. “What I feel for you makes me uncomfortable.”
At her admission, Misha squeezed her hand and, for the first time since they were in the car, he looked at her in a way that made her feel warm, “Two porcupines,” he smiled, and then he became serious, “I am sorry I was short with you, Zolotse. I should not have questioned your need to leave. All is resolved now? Your Maker is healthy? He is out of danger?”
Pam thought that for a moment the King’s eyes seemed too interested, but then she nodded, “False alarm. He was in Rhodes, but when the trouble started, Sookie transported them both back to Shreveport. Fae thing.”
“She has those powers?” he smiled, but the smile didn’t seem to reach his eyes. “Your Maker is most fortunate in his choice of mate!” and then rubbing his thumb across her knuckles, he said, “As am I.”
Andrew pulled up to the curb of the brownstone and within moments, the front door was open and it was as though Pam was walking into her own small palace. The lights were warm and the soft glow of luxury felt welcoming. “Perhaps some blood?” Misha gestured toward the stairs and Pam preceded him to the living room.
“How are other things?” Pam asked. “Carlo still shielding your right?”
“Ahh!” Misha sighed, “I am afraid Carlo has proven a disappointment.”
“Oh?” Pam asked, “What happened?”
“He was betraying me,” Misha shook his head. “I’m not sure what happened, but he was involved with Bill Compton in some way. I know what the reporters are saying about the explosion in Rhodes, but I think the writer was involved,” and Misha handed her the glass. “Perhaps you heard something about that in Shreveport? Rumors?”
“No,” Pam replied, “Nothing about Bill.”
Misha nodded, “I only recently found out about this. It seems Carlo and Bill met in Boston at the last Summit. You should know I am indulgent with those I love. It is a failing,” and he waved his hand. “And I did love him, Zolotse! He has been with me many years. I never would have suspected him!”
“Do you know what was he doing with Compton?” Pam settled on the couch beside him.
Misha ran his finger along her upper arm, “No, not entirely,” he told her. “I am having him hunted. He won’t escape me for long, and then I hope we learn the entire story. It makes me wonder if there were other things he was doing that would reflect badly on me and cause me embarrassment.”
“I never liked Bill Compton,” Pam sighed. “He was a liar. If he was part of the bombing, he should share in the blame, and not be made into some hero. They are talking about erecting a statue for him in Rhodes!”
“I couldn’t imagine that would sit well with your Maker or his mate,” and Misha leaned toward her, “After all, there was history between them.”
“Some,” Pam frowned, “but I think it was more in Bill’s imagination than anywhere else.”
“Of course!” the King smiled, but Pam was sure she felt a swift moment of disappointment through their tie. “Of course, I feel the fool,” he sighed as well. “I paid Carlo well and it would appear he used my generosity to create problems for me, but how selfish I am! You have just returned from comforting your Maker. Such a hardship, to lose a child. It’s not like losing progeny, of course, but to have your mate suffer an upset like this when you are yourself healing from injury is terrible.”
“It was difficult for both of them,” Pam acknowledged. She maintained her smile as the faint trace of triumph trickled through her. Realizing how her words might have been interpreted, she clarified, “They were both very attached to the idea of having a biological child.”
“A novelty, and most unusual. I understand there are other mixed species couples who are willing to have these small children to provide them a different sense of family.” Misha was nodding now, and the wisps of emotion and feeling coming through their tie seemed to sync with his words. “But, of course, you are fatigued. What would you like to do on your first evening home, my Pamela? Music? Perhaps the book you were enjoying? It is on the tableside upstairs where you left it. I can get it for you.” He sat back and sent her something through their tie that felt like adoration and it was all she had not to purr for him. “Forgive me my enthusiasm, my golden girl. Having you here makes my life complete,” and Pam found her doubts seemed to melt away. She stopped worrying about the odd moments or later, when Andrew asked twice about her Maker. She was home.
Sightings of strange vampires were reported sporadically throughout the week. Sookie pulled out the old Compton vampire database and looked up the two names Jason told her about, but with no luck. It was possible Luca and Juan had been made since the database’s last update, or that those names weren’t theirs at all. Sookie looked at the edition date on the splash page, allowing the corny graveyard music to play through the speakers. It was sobering to realize there was no one now who would keep the database current.
The memorial services in Rhodes were televised and held at night. Sookie and Eric had both watched it, if only to see the Kings. Bartlett and Russell looked good. Russell gave the eulogy for Bill. After only a few minutes, Eric growled and left the room. Sookie found herself smiling and turned off the television. “I don’t want to see it either,” she said out loud.
Eric came back carrying a bottle of blood, “I’m not sure I would wish to tell them at this point.” Sookie knew her husband was talking about telling Russell and Bartlett that Bill Compton was the bomber. The media, the Kings, everyone seemed convinced now that it was Vampires First that had been behind the tragedy and that Bill Compton was an innocent victim in all this. For Eric and Sookie, who knew differently, it was frustrating. “We have no proof,” Eric shrugged, “and even if Thalia should find something, I’m not sure what would be gained by revealing him for what he was.”
“Except the truth!” Sookie told him. “You know, sometimes people need to know how things really are!”
“Do they?” and Eric peeled the label of his bottle with his fingernail. “In this case, the cruel, bigoted vampires were the villains and they were punished with their own device. The famous vampire who wrote about romance was the hapless victim, allowing humans to see this as something other than hunting them.” His lip lifted on the one side as he said, “It is the storybook ending and everyone sleeps at night.”
“But it’s not fair!” Sookie said the words carefully, her hands on her hips. “It’s not right!”
“Whoever told you that life was fair, Lover?” Eric replied, and Sookie could feel the sadness they shared. After a minute, he said, “If Compton had lived it would be different. I would have ended him for us, for what we lost. But he is gone and there is no one left of his blood. His sister, Judith, is estranged from him and he rejected her. There is no one to give me vengeance.” He glanced at the dark television, “The Kings have made Compton their cause. They loved the idea of him, and they are making a mark with humans by standing on the story they have created. If I were to reveal him now, it would only hurt them. Better to let it go.”
“I don’t know if I can do that,” Sookie replied. “I got a text asking me to contribute to the night-flowering garden the Descendants of the Glorious Dead are going to build near the town park in Bill’s honor. I don’t think I’ll be able to walk past it without spitting!”
Eric found himself grinning. It was a gift, the return of their ability to smile. There were still moments when the tragedy sat heavy on them. Sookie tried to keep her crying to daytime and far enough away that she was pretty sure no one could hear her, but, like her body, being in this place seemed to be healing her heart as well. Eric mourned, too, but in his pragmatic way, he seemed able to compartmentalize it. If he did grieve openly now, he did it when she was sleeping. There were still those moments when they caught each other’s eye and knew, but laughter was returning, and they were both benefiting from it.
They talked about New Orleans. Retreating there was no longer an option. While the wide-open areas around the Bon Temps house made Sookie feel insecure at times, she did trust the wards. To return to New Orleans would invite more scrutiny, and not just the vampire kind.
The reports they received from Maxwell Lee seemed to have taken a more sinister turn. The FBI had started questioning those who worked in the palace. According to more than one source, the agents were tracking down former palace employees as well. Most of the questions were about Meg and her interactions with both Eric and Sookie, but they were asking other questions, too, about who had lived in the palace and how long. “You think they know about the donors?” Sookie asked Eric.
“I don’t think so,” he’d told her. “If they did, the questions would be more direct.” Still, Sookie could feel that Eric was worried about what was happening, and that, along with the growing sense that they were being stalked, was making them both edgy.
The vampire ‘stalking’ reports hadn’t increased, but neither had they stopped.
Rubio Hermosa reported encountering a vampire coming out of Mississippi. Rubio didn’t give the vampire’s name, but he did confirm he wasn’t part of Russell Edgington’s kingdom. When Rubio questioned the stranger more closely, he declared himself as one of Sybil’s. The Alabama Queen neither claimed nor denied he was hers, and Rubio released the vampire rather than take the chance.
Karin and Thomas reported strange vampires in Arkansas as well. As the days passed and more reports were received, Sookie allowed her frustration with Karin to boil over. “She’s your War Chief! She should never have gone so far away!” she pointed out when Eric defended his progeny’s actions.
“Lover, Karin is finding problems and reporting them,” Eric countered. “Arkansas is still a wide open territory. I have not replaced the open Sheriff’s position in the southern part of that state. Thomas has done a credible job with the problem I handed him, but he needs assistance to build the defenses. Karin did the right thing. Having the two of them there will make the job of building border security go faster, and Karin’s presence will encourage local vampires to join. I have no doubt with the number of reports we are receiving, there are scouts who have not been detected simply because we don’t have enough vampires to see them.” Sookie understood from her days managing the restaurant the strain that occurred when an operation was understaffed. When things were good in the kingdom, it was easy to ignore some of the obvious deficits, like the open Sheriff position in Arkansas. Now that they seemed to be drifting closer to a crisis, the lack of people in key positions was emerging as a larger liability.
“Do you intend to send Jane to Lafayette now?” Sookie challenged. It was a decision Eric held off making, primarily because Sookie had argued so hard against it. The telepath pointed out that their western border was already patrolled by both Stan Davis and Sandy Seacrest’s people. While Stan could be slippery, he was someone who could be trusted not to stage a takeover, and Sandy was someone both Sookie and Eric trusted as a friend.
Eric sighed, “You are like a dog with a bone, Lover. No, I will keep Jane here with us for now. I have asked my Sheriffs for recommendations to fill the open positions from those within their ranks. Uncertain times are bad times to ask other monarchs for recommendations. It is too tempting to send someone whose loyalties are divided,” and Sookie realized he was telling her the others would feel compelled to send spies.
Mustapha came by regularly, and Sookie and the Packmaster (wearing his Eric face) had made another social appearance at Fangtasia. As they were getting ready to leave that night, Mustapha had asked whether it made sense for Sookie to position someone in the Bon Temps house to look like Eric, and have Eric himself spend the evening at the Compton house.
“If anyone figures out what we’re doing, they’d know to come out here while you’re least defended,” the Packmaster pointed out to Eric. “If you left Bubba or Owen here as a decoy…”
“What you are suggesting is unworthy!” Eric interrupted.
“What I’m suggesting is that both those fellows can swing a blade. Without your balance, you’d be an easy target to take down.”
Sookie begged, but Eric was unmoved. Instead, he had Jane come to the house to stay with them. Jane was still wary of Sookie, and the way the newly-reinstated Sheriff would move to place more distance between herself and Sookie provided Eric a new form of annoying entertainment.
They did go over to Bill Compton’s house one night to see what Charles had found during his investigation. Sookie stood in the room off the kitchen surrounded by her photographs. She took her time walking from wall to wall. She paused at some images, trying to figure out where she’d been when they were taken. It was some relief to see there were no photos that were too new, but when she reached the wall where Bill had begun to remove her eyes, she couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran through her.
“I want them all taken down,” Eric said. He stood at the doorway and refused to walk inside.
“And I want them burned,” Sookie added. “Every single one.” She looked at Eric, “I want to buy this house, Eric, and all the land. Let’s ask Desmond to make it a top priority. He can feel out Portia and Andy. I don’t care what he says, that we loved Bill, and we want to turn this into some kind of memorial, or that we’re wealthy oil folks from Texas. I want this place, and when I get it…” she looked at the photos again, “I’m getting a bulldozer and I’m going to grind it into the dirt!”
“I’d pay to watch that, Lover,” Eric told her. When she turned toward him, he opened his arms to her, and together they walked slowly back to their own house, making a stop at the bench in the cemetery along the way.
Every night, Sookie posted pictures and sent general social messaging, thanking the community for their outpouring of sympathy and making announcements. Eric handled correspondence and communicated with his Sheriffs. They received requests from various news sources for interviews. Most wanted to talk about Rhodes, but Sookie was reluctant to respond to any of them. “I never thought I’d say it, but I think I’m missing Twy,” she mentioned to both Eric and Mr. Cataliades at dinner that night. “I wonder what happened to her. I hope she wasn’t killed in Rhodes!”
“I’m surprised you don’t know,” the attorney replied. “She is Bartlett Crowe’s child now. I thought he would have told you.”
Sookie was shocked and turned toward Eric. “It is my fault, Älskade,” Eric told her. When Sookie looked confused, he continued, “As Clan Chief, I have been lax in keeping up my contacts with my fellow monarchs.” Sookie knew Eric had not been spending as many hours at his computer or on his phone. She supposed in part it was because he was still recovering. Eric made an effort not to appear weakened, but healing took something out of any creature, and vampires were no different. But Sookie knew that physical recovery was not the real reason her husband had kept his correspondence to a minimum. Sookie knew Eric hadn’t called the other monarchs or those outside the kingdom because he didn’t want to be reminded, as they knew friends would, of what had been lost.
Eric nodded, and Sookie could feel his resolve. “It is time to start moving forward.” They found themselves looking at each other across the table. She held out her hand and he smiled, taking it. “It is time,” he said again as much to himself as to her.
Of course, the weakness in his legs made an immediate, full return to the world around them impossible, but Eric got on the phone later than evening, spending hours talking with friends and spreading the story that Sookie’s Fae powers had been the cause of their miraculous reprieve from the devastation of Rhodes.
Doctor Ludwig had been out to the house to see them several times. She declared Sookie fully cured and Eric well on his way. “The silver poisoning is receding. Of course you would heal faster if Karin or Pam were here to give you their blood, but between your wife and this place, you are making a miraculous recovery. Your hand should not be anywhere near this stage of regeneration and you are already feeding. I wouldn’t have thought it possible. As for your movement, I suspect you’ll wake up one day, dancing around as if it never happened.” When Eric groused about not having a more specific timeframe, the Doctor laughed and said, “That’s gratitude for you! Last time I give you good news, vampire! I tell you you’re the head of the class and you bitch about the view!”
It was the night of the Assizes. Mr. Cataliades was there for dinner, and they were talking about probate and how long it would take before anything could be decided about Bill’s assets. No will had been found so far, which surprised Sookie. “Bill was the most fastidious person I know,” she said. “Making out a will is not the kind of detail he would have ignored.” They agreed that Mr. Cataliades should have investigators search for the document. “As much as I hate spending one penny on that son of a bitch, I don’t want that house sitting vacant either,” Sookie growled. They stood up from the table and retreated into the family room.
“I have some Tawny Port that arrived today,” Sookie mentioned to the attorney, “I seem to recall you saying you like it.”
“You are most kind,” the demon bowed. “And before I forget, I have a gift for you as well.” He leaned over and opened his large attorney’s briefcase, extracting what looked like a wine bottle wrapped in iridescent cloth. Handing it to Sookie, he remained standing, his eyes watchful. When Sookie unwrapped it, Mr. Cataliades said, “A gift from Nebraska. It’s mead.”
“Oh!” Sookie smiled, and then she blushed. When Eric and Sookie had been in Nebraska for their Fae joining, there had been a great deal of mead consumed. Eric had been especially fond of it, asking Sookie to drink so he could suck the taste from her. Sookie remembered the drunken euphoria she felt and how little hangover she’d had each morning. It had been mead that fueled their joinings, and each had been memorable. “Thank you,” Sookie stammered, aware her face was blazing, “We both liked it. This is very kind of you.”
“You should put it somewhere we can find it, Lover,” Eric was standing beside her, and he leaned down to nuzzle her ear. They hadn’t made love since the explosion. In some part, they hadn’t found much to inspire them, but mostly they were recovering from injuries. Eric had lost his sac. Sookie was aware it had regenerated, but she also knew things down there hadn’t quite sorted themselves out yet. As Eric stood next to her, sending her a quick burst of lust, and she got the impression that might have changed.
“Now quit it!” she grinned, and pushed against Eric’s chest before stepping away to fix Desmond a plate of cookies. ‘Things are looking up,’ she thought as she headed back toward the family room, and then she blushed again when she thought of her words.
“You stand in the Assizes of the King! Come forward those with business here and be judged!” Rubio Hermosa intoned the formal opening to the monthly Court. The docket was light tonight. There were only three serious matters and several minor ones. Mustapha was doing well. His entrance and his posture on the throne were perfect. Sookie sat on the throne beside him. She was nervous for no reason and found she was struggling not to show it.
The first matter was a business dispute. The allegation was that a price had been set and when it came time to pay, the buyer refused to honor the agreed-upon price. The buyer argued that the merchandise was not as represented. This should have been a minor matter, but the two vampires began to bicker. Sookie knew if it had been Eric on the throne he would have thrown his head back and roared. It wasn’t something he was required to do often. Sookie had only seen it once, and the display, along with his extended fangs, had restored order. Unfortunately, it was not a behavior that had been discussed with Mustapha. Instead of handling it himself, the Packmaster growled and turned to Rubio, “Sheriff! Restore order in my Court!” he barked. Sookie made the words and sounds more compatible with a vampire, but it sounded false to her ears. Sookie was relieved to see only a few quick glances, most seeming to accept Mustapha’s actions, and things moved forward.
The other problem came later in the night. The issue before the Court involved a vampire who had made a nuisance of herself. She had fed from several male humans and been caught glamouring them. One male was underage and the human parents had made a fuss. The vampire had been arrested and ordered to perform community service since she, herself, had been barely legal when she was turned. Of course, that turning had happened over a hundred years ago when things were different, but her youthful appearance had been enough to earn her the Court’s leniency. The problem arose when she refused. She told the humans she wouldn’t grovel to them and she called in her Maker. Now that Maker was standing in Assizes, demanding that the humans accept cash in lieu of hours spent in a soup kitchen. It was a classic case of culture clash and Sookie was sure Eric would have known the right thing to do, but she was stumped and so was Mustapha. Mustapha called a recess, claiming the need to consult with his expert on human justice. They retreated to the small office Rubio had set aside and texted first Eric, and then Mr. Cataliades.
It didn’t take long to get the answer. Mustapha and Sookie emerged to pronounce that since the vampire had violated human law and been foolish enough to be arrested by humans, she would have to serve the human sentence. Her Maker would be required to pay restitution by way of a scholarship fund for the under-aged human involved in the incident. There was some grumbling, and Sookie used it as an opportunity to stand up beside Mustapha and snarl, “Enough! The King has spoken!” There was no further protest and it ended the business for the night, but Sookie was sure she saw murmuring and more than one sidelong look.
As they retrieved their jackets from the back, Rubio said, “I thought it went well.”
“Me, too,” Mustapha almost sounded too relieved. Sookie made a point of leaning against Mustapha, and smiling into his face to continue the illusion, but her sense of uneasiness grew.
When they were in the car and headed back to Bon Temps, Mustapha said, “Please tell me that’s the last time I have to pretend I’m him. This being vampire is harder than it looks.”
Sookie was too nervous to make small talk or joke. “We don’t have any more appearances we should need to make,” she confirmed. “I’m just hoping that we’ve done enough to stop the rumor mill from churning out any more stories.
Mustapha pulled out his phone. “Sorry,” he said and punched in a few numbers. He turned toward the window, and Sookie got the impression he was handling Pack business. The rest of the ride Sookie stared out the window, going over every face she hadn’t recognized and look sent her way. She texted Rubio a couple times, asking about the identities of some of those she had seen. He confirmed there was at least one vampire in the assembled crowd he hadn’t known. When they pulled up to the rendezvous spot outside Shreveport, Sookie was relieved. She really wanted to speak with Eric, but she wasn’t going to make that call with Mustapha in the car.
Warren was waiting, and Sookie took a few minutes to ask after him and thank Mustapha again, and then they were back in the car and headed toward Bon Temps. Sookie fished out her phone and pressed ‘1’, which called Eric.
“Lover,” he purred, “How were things this evening?” Sookie filled him in on the proceedings. He asked several questions about posture and eye contact, particularly after the last hearing. “I think you are reading too much into it,” he assured her when Sookie told him how concerned she felt. “Still,” he continued, “there is often a fair amount of chatter on the networks after these hearings. I will sign in and see what is being said. How far out are you?”
“I know we talked about this, but I’d really like to call in more support,” Sookie told Eric.
“And who would that be?” Eric asked her. “Mustapha and Emil will lend up support, but they are reluctant to become too deeply embroiled in something like this. They need to live here. Regardless of the direction this goes, they will look to work with the King here.”
“In other words, they won’t care who sits on the throne,” Sookie said bitterly.
“Don’t judge them harshly. Both Packmasters would come and fight for us. What they won’t do is commit their Packs. Think, Lover. They have children and businesses. If they pick the wrong side they can’t leave.”
“Fine,” Sookie replied. “Why don’t I call Niall? He could care less about living anywhere. I am his granddaughter…”
“Sookie, we’ve talked about this. He won’t want to get pulled into this. He doesn’t run the same risks as the Weres, but he has fewer people, too. I hear you are nervous. Come home and we’ll talk more.”
Sookie hung up and stared out the window, and then, setting her jaw she hit the buttons that would call Niall.
“You have reached the office of Niall Brigant…” said a familiar, mechanized voice.
“Shit!” Sookie snapped, “I can’t believe he has voice mail! What kind of fairy Prince has voice mail?” When the beep sounded, Sookie said, “Grandfather, this is Sookie. I’m hoping you’ll call me back. Eric and I could use your help. If you can call me?”
When she hung up, she saw Charles looking at her in the rear view mirror. “What?” she asked. “It’s not like Eric told me not to!”
Charles shook his head and put his eyes back on the road, “But you know he wouldn’t like it,” the Were said.
“Who asked you?” Sookie grumbled and settled back against the cushions for the rest of the ride home.
When they pulled up into the driveway Jane was standing on the front porch. “My Queen,” the new Sheriff said and bowed. She was looking like the cat that ate the canary, and Sookie wondered what was going on.
“How are you doing?” Sookie replied politely.
“I’m fine, and I’ll be in the guesthouse if you need me,” Jane smirked, and as she passed Sookie, she said, “which you won’t!”
Frowning, Sookie walked in the house and called out, “Eric?”
“I’m upstairs, Lover,” he called from somewhere upstairs and Sookie headed up toward their bed chamber. As she stepped out on the landing of the top floor, she saw the room was lit with candles. There were flowers from the rose bushes outside in bowls on the furniture. “Do you need a bath?” Eric asked, stepping out of the bathroom. “I have one ready for you.”
“Someone’s feeling a lot better,” Sookie grinned, and then she bit her lip as he sauntered toward her. He used that strutting step he had sometimes where his head turned just a bit and his hips rolled in loose-jointed grace. He stopped when he stood behind her, and then waited just long enough for her to draw in a shaky breath before he placed his hands on her shoulders.
Eric’s head dipped down, and he nuzzled and then kissed the side of her neck, and Sookie found herself tilting her head to allow him greater access. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered against her skin. He moved his fingers to the base of her neck and rubbed and stretched, pulling the tension from her muscles. She leaned back into him, and he slipped his fingertips down her sides, ghosting over her until he could lift the edge of her shirt. “Raise your arms, Älskade.” Sookie closed her eyes, and her shirt was gone, replaced by Eric’s arms wrapping around her. He flexed his knees in back of her so they could spoon when he pulled her against him, her backside pressed against him in a way that let her knew he was feeling much better. With a flick of his fingers, her hair was flipped forward, and he licked and nibbled the column of her neck again, and then he was gone. Sookie started to fall backward, but he was in front of her, her hands in his and instead of her falling, he pulled her forward and toward the bathroom.
The tub was full and there were rose petals floating on the water. Eric smiled down at her, “Will you undress me, Sookie?” he asked and he held his hands out at his side to make her job easier.
He was wearing one of his black button-down shirts and Sookie started at the bottom. After each button, she smoothed her hands up his body until she found the next button. Open, stroke, pause, open. Eric was watching her with hooded eyes, and Sookie found her own breathing was starting to sound as if she’d run up the stairs a couple of times. When she reached for the button on his pants, he sucked in his stomach just enough to allow her fingers to slide under his waistband. She couldn’t resist it, the slow dip, sliding her fingers lower until he hissed as her fingertips brushed against his hard length. When she pulled the zipper down, his cock sprang forward. He pulled away from her and slowly turned around. With strong, sure movements, he pulled his jeans from over his hips and then leaned over, allowing them to fall down his long legs. He leaned against the wall as he stepped from them and Sookie groaned, watching the muscles of his perfect butt flex and shift. Without looking at her, Eric stepped into the bath and settled himself with his back against the far end. “Would you strip for me?” he asked her.
Shooting him a grin, Sookie reached up and hooked the straps of her bra, letting them fall down her arms. Holding his eyes with her own, she unfastened her own pants and unzipped them, allowing the sides to fall open, revealing black lace.
“That’s what you wore to my Assizes?” he asked. “Black lace? Knowing I wouldn’t be there?” Eric was stroking himself as he watched her, a slow smile smoldering on his lips. “Which black lace panties are those, Lover? The boy shorts?” Sookie turned around and, repeating his shimmy, lowered her pants to reveal the T-strap of a thong. ”I may have to inspect your clothing more closely before we go out to these affairs,” Eric chided her, but Sookie wasn’t fooled. She knew he approved. She reached behind her and unlatched her bra strap, then turned around, still holding the bra cups in place. With a saucy smile, she pulled it from her, allowing her breasts to come free.
“There is wine in the bedroom,” Eric told her, “I want you to pour yourself a glass and come back to me,” and he gestured toward the door. The mead had been opened and it was on the nightstand next to the bed. There were two glasses and Sookie filled one with the golden liquor.
When she walked back into the bathroom, he was laying back, his arms hooked over both sides of the tub. “You sure you’re up to this?” Sookie giggled. “We got pretty busy the last time we played with this stuff!”
“Why don’t you try it and tell me if it is as you remember, Lover,” Eric asked her, “and then come to me. I want to taste it on your tongue.”
Sookie felt a warm blush heat her body as she walked toward him, sipping the wine. The pure honey taste of the mead subtly scented with spices hit the back of her throat, adding to the growing heat within her. Setting the glass on the high edge of the tub behind Eric’s head, Sookie leaned back to pull her panties down her legs using her thumbs. She rubbed her thighs together, making sure the juncture of her legs was close enough to his face so that he could scent her, and when his eyes darkened, she leaned over, picked up the glass in one hand, and held her other hand out to him. Eric took Sookie’s hand, allowing her to use him as balance as she stepped down into the tub. Keeping a firm grasp on his hand, Sookie lowered herself to her knees, straddling his thighs. She leaned forward, folding his length up between them. Making sure he was watching her, she sipped the mead a third time, and then leaned forward to kiss him.
“Sookie,” he gasped, capturing her lips. As she opened her mouth he darted forward his tongue, licking her own, massaging the inside of her mouth. He explored her, then pulled at her lower lip until she offered her own tongue again and he captured it, sucking and moaning as he tasted honey wine. ‘Again,” he gasped, and she took another mouthful of mead. When he pulled back a second time, Sookie kissed his forehead, smoothing her fingers through his hair. Leaning back, she tipped most of the contents of the cup, allowing the wine to spill over her breasts. When he moved toward her, she grabbed his hair and pulled his head back. She looked at him, his hunger for her. The way Eric’s eyes burned, the set of his jaw, told Sookie she was beautiful and desired, and it was enough. Leaning back again, she released her hold on his hair and Eric’s arms snaked around her, pulling her close. She could feel his fangs as he suckled first one breast, and then the other. His erection was pulsing between them and when he raised his eyes to her again, wild and feral, she placed her hand on his shoulder, pushed up, and then lowered herself, using her other hand to position him so he could slide into her.
Eric was breathing, drawing in the scent of her, and then exhaling so he could bring her scent within him again. He grasped her waist, helping her to move up and down, but it was a difficult position, and Sookie started to falter as her thighs became fatigued.
“We must exercise more,” Eric grinned and then, his expression turning more serious, he reached behind him for the glass of wine. He tipped what was left on her breasts again and as he suckled, he shifted forward, lifting her with him until her back was against the other end of the tub. With a smooth movement, he rose and stepped from the tub, striding out of the bathroom, dripping water like some sea God. He was back in a moment, the cup in his hand.
“Now, I think it is my turn to exercise, Lover” he told her. With a cocky smile, he sipped wine into his mouth and holding it, stepped into the tub, kneeling in front of her. He leaned over and captured her mouth, pouring the liquor into her from his own lips while he ran his hands up the outsides of her thighs. While he plundered her mouth, he shifted his hands so he could open her to him. When she groaned, arching her back, Eric tipped her hips forward, and he was within her. At this angle, Eric was able to push deep and Sookie felt every inch as he slid within her. “You are very tight, Lover,” he growled. “I do not wish to hurt you.”
“You won’t!” Sookie answered, and then leaned forward to bite his lip, drawing blood. With a snarl, Eric pulled back and then rocked forward, snapping his hips into the movement. He repeated it, angling up so that he dragged over that place within her that made her toes curl. “Oh, you know me too well!” she gasped and was rewarded by his low chuckle.
“We’ll see whether I’ve forgotten anything important,” he teased, and then proceeded to demonstrate there was nothing wrong with his memory of her anatomy. He played her skillfully. When Sookie needed his gentleness, he soothed her. When she needed his strength, he flexed within her, bringing her hands to hold onto his butt, creating more leverage for them both. When she felt the coil within her tighten, and her breath started coming in squeaks and hisses, he pulled her knee up and out, and he moved so powerfully the water sloshed from the tub onto the floor. At the right moment, he feathered his fingers between them, pulling her orgasm from her in a long, loud wail. She felt the moment he swelled within her and he ground out words she didn’t recognize. For a long time, he held her against him, pushing into her again and again, whispering her name until he dropped his forehead on her shoulder.
“I love you, Eric,” she whispered as she stroked his back.
“I am yours,” he told her, and she knew it was true.
As the water cooled, Eric stood, and offered his hand. He helped her step from the bath, and then handed her a towel. They dried each other, but with every swipe of the towel, their movements became less about drying and more about playing. “You are spending a great deal of time attending to that part of me,” he teased as she rubbed and massaged the Gracious Plenty. Sookie answered by reaching under him to stroke his sac, and then she flicked his growing hardness with her finger.
“You’d better run!” he warned her and Sookie obliged, running for the bed, laughing, and then struggling when he tackled her onto her back in the middle of the mattress. Securing her hands over her head, holding her wrists easily with one big hand, Eric stretched over her. The grin softened as he looked over her face and then her body. Sookie felt a trace of sadness from him. She had heard that sorrow could drive some couples apart, but, in this moment, she understood it was something that further cemented them together.
“Make love to me, Eric?” she asked him.
He smiled, and holding her eyes, he smoothed his hands down her arms, following his hands with his lips. Rocking back on his heels, he leaned over for the wine and filled the cup once more. “Indulge me, Lover. Make me drunk with you.”
They played then, painting parts with sticky fingers, and then licking each other clean. They drank from each other’s bodies until Sookie’s head was spinning and the world became the four corners of the bed. His hands defined her, stroking her limbs, and making her new. She worshipped him, running teeth and lips over the hard planes and ropes of Eric’s muscle. “You are a beautiful man,” she whispered as she traced the hollows of his hips.
“I am your beautiful man, min hustru,” he purred. He sat back against the backboard of that bed and drew her to him. “Ride me, my Valkyrie!” and Sookie eagerly joined him. Together they moved, slow, deliberate, building the sensation for each other, stroke by stroke, gasp by gasp. Eric’s large hand cupped Sookie’s face, and then his eyes closed. Sookie threw her head back, and somehow it wasn’t their bed in the house in Bon Temps anymore. They were back in Nebraska and it was the night of their joining. Their bodies were painted in runes and they were in the clearing surrounded by the stones. Sookie was kneeling in thick moss and somewhere close by she could hear water falling and rushing over rocks. The sounds of night birds and peepers surrounded them, and the smell of earth, moist and rich was in her nose. She opened her eyes and overhead the stars wheeled in a black sky. She was part of the infinity of the moon, and the night, and as she came, crying out her joy, a voice within her shouted, ‘Yes!’
“I read your report,” Felipe gestured impatiently to the young man who knelt between his legs, letting him know he was moving too quickly, and then turned his attention back to Angie. His progeny was calling him from Boston. Angie had gone out East to meet with Pam and check on their investments, but now it was clear she had been busy doing other things as well.
“Read the media sites. People are convinced this is all a ruse. Whoever, or whatever, Sookie is parading around, it’s not Eric Northman. My spies tell me he is alive. He’s been spotted at the house out in the woods. The house itself has changed from the last time, but the location is the same. The Viking my spy saw limped. The one that has shown itself at Fangtasia and the Assizes didn’t.”
“A takeover is not just an injured vampire,” Felipe scolded her. “He is ambulatory. Even damaged, a moving vampire, and we’re talking about Eric Northman, the Viking will not be an easy mark.”
“There is more,” Angie’s voice took on that hint of whine Felipe found annoying. “Half his force is out of the state. Thalia is north and she’s taken the French Sheriff, Misha’s former lieutenant with her.”
“Thalia is gone?” Felipe sat forward, more interested. He flicked the cheek of the man sucking him and gestured he should leave. The man gave the King a look of disappointment, which didn’t fool Felipe for a moment. This particular human was very talented, but he was also looking for more than providing a service for a fee. They all wanted something, these humans. When the door shut behind the human, Felipe said, “Who does he have around him?”
Angie detailed counts and locations. She provided details on each of the Sheriffs, their retinues, and then outlined her plan. “What made you think about this?” Felipe asked when she was done.
“You were robbed of the kingdom,” Angie replied. “It is only right you should have the territory back now that it’s a money maker. I want to do this and I hope if I am successful, you will reward me by allowing me to act at Regent there in your name.”
Felipe thought about it. He was fond of Angie. She had proven herself resourceful and entertaining over the many years they had been together. She wasn’t exactly innovative, or particularly adept at making money, but she was an inventive and resourceful fighter. She had shown initiative in scouting out this opportunity and that was something new. For a moment, he wondered if the idea was truly hers, then dismissed the idea that she would lie to him. She might exaggerate, but she had never concealed anything from him in past.
“You may use my people,” he told her. “But this is your action. I won’t come to your rescue if you run into trouble.”
“You won’t regret it!” he could hear the triumph in her voice, and he had a sudden premonition that he would regret it in many ways.