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.
April gave way to May and the season of the walkers was well and fully underway. Every night the beds of Seacoast Shores were full of tired but exuberant adventurers and every morning, those guests came downstairs, lining their luggage up in the front room for pick-up by their touring company, preparing themselves for the next ten to fifteen miles of trail ahead of them.
Days for Sookie started early. By five in the morning, she was up and in the kitchen of the main house, prepping things for the morning rush. There were box lunches to make for those who ordered them and the grocery list to prepare for tomorrow’s breakfast.
When guests came downstairs, Sookie handled the stove. Most menu selections featured eggs and Sookie’s sure touch made assembling orders easier. Maryann would take over for the last half hour, giving Sookie a chance to spend time with the guests, asking them where they were from and hearing about the sights they’d seen in Ireland so far.
There were places in Slievemore catering to more long-term guests, but those who came here to see the local sights were more likely to book a room downtown at places like The Grand. It made things at Seacoast Shores both easier and harder. Since most of the guests here were walking the long, circular trail that took them from town to town, they were only here for one night. The rooms were generally easier to clean, but they had to be fully refreshed every day, which meant fresh sheets and fresh towels. Sookie spent every afternoon transferring laundry from the washing machines to the dryers, and then folding in preparation for tomorrow when it would start again.
When later afternoon rolled around, Sookie ran errands. She shopped for both the B&B and for herself. Maryann loaned Sookie her car for these trips, so Sookie took advantage of the business owner’s discount to save herself money on groceries as well. She was more and more convinced owning a place like Maryann’s was the future she wished for herself. She thought of the town she’d visited in the south where her Grandmother lived and the countryside surrounding it. There were places on the national trail there that had views of the ocean and she dreamed of greeting strangers who, in the course of twenty-four hours, would become her friends.
Most evenings, either Pam or Eric would stop by. Pam might stay for a chat, but Eric rarely did. They came to the door and dropped off the receipts from the previous evening. If Sookie was on evening duty, keeping the door open at Seacoast Shores and checking in the guests who were out until late, the vampires would come to the front door. Even though they had invitations, they rarely came inside Seacoast Shores. Sometimes, though, Sookie would join them outside and they’d sit on a little patio in the front of the house, looking at the harbor waters that lay just across the street.
For a few weeks, Sookie headed into town on her evenings off. Usually, she went to Ghoul’s Kiss. It was fun, until it wasn’t. When Pam was there, she always made time to sit with Sookie and chat, but then she started leaving town. Clancy, the vampire Sookie had seen in Eric’s office, was starting another club for them a few towns over, so Pam was working closely with him to get things off the ground. With Pam out of town, Eric was busy, too. That left long periods of time when Sookie was sitting by herself, a drink in front of her, wondering about her future, and hoping she didn’t look like a woman turning into the town drunk.
Breandan hadn’t called. He didn’t stop by the B&B again. Sookie kept half-expecting to see him when she came into town, walking toward her. Slievemore wasn’t that big and Sookie knew they frequented the same stores, but the days passed, and then weeks, with no sighting. She knew she shouldn’t be missing him. He’d done nothing to deserve it, but Sookie did. She missed the way his eyes softened when he saw her. She remembered the feel of his hands drifting over her and at night in her bed, she drifted her own hands over her breasts and shoulders, eyes closed, pretending they were his. There were times almost every day that her hand reached for her phone, thinking of the words she’d text, but then she remembered how there were times at The Grand she’d been just as lonely as she was now when Breandan had been there. ‘You are missing the idea of him,’ Sookie told herself, but, still, as each day passed, she felt her hours grow just a little emptier.
Finally, after about a month, Sookie stopped going out on her nights off. It was just as comfortable to sit in her apartment, watching shows streaming on her laptop and sipping tea. She read books and worked, and she surfed the real estate listings looking at B&Bs for sale that she couldn’t afford to buy.
It was a fine Tuesday night when Eric Northman knocked on her door. That wasn’t unusual. He’d drop the receipts, maybe tease her, and then go on his way, so Sookie wasn’t expecting anything different.
“Hello,” she said, almost before the door was opened, but when she looked toward him it was to find a bouquet of flowers. “Oh!” she hesitated. Sookie was so surprised Eric had to extend the flowers a second time before she moved to take them.
“I was worried about you,” Eric told her. “I’ve become accustomed to seeing you sitting in my pub. Have I done something to offend you?”
“No,” Sookie smiled, “Of course not!” She glanced at her table and the mess she’d left there. “I’m just trying to save money.” It was a lame excuse, but one she figured Eric would accept.
“Perhaps you would invite me in,” he suggested. That was new. Eric, especially, had been careful to decline any invitation to enter Sookie’s apartment, so Sookie was now convinced he regretted their kiss as much as she did.
“Uh,” and Sookie stepped back, “Sure. I guess.”
It occurred to Sookie she’d stopped being intimidated by Eric’s size. He was a large man, tall and broad-shouldered. As he stepped past her, she found her eyes drawn to his butt. It was a truly gorgeous butt, rounded and muscled in a way that filled out his pants and made her want to touch it. He stopped near her table and leaned over, she assumed to look at her computer screen, which made her eyes zero in even more. She may have audibly gulped, and then blushed bright red when she realized he was watching her over his shoulder. He knew exactly what she was doing and he wiggled his posterior just a little to make sure she knew! “If you’d like a closer look, I’m sure I can arrange that for you,” he purred.
“I am so sorry,” and Sookie closed her eyes. “That was just rude!”
“I fluster you,” he stated as Sookie opened her eyes, placing her hands against her flaming cheeks to cool them.
“You don’t fluster me,” Sookie lied.
Eric had turned around and was leaning against her table, his legs apart and his arms folded across his chest. Just standing there, he made her apartment look small. “I like it!” he told her. His eyes were dancing and his lip curled up at the corner just a bit. There was no dimple, but he was a very handsome man. When Sookie didn’t say anything, he asked, “Would you mind if I visited with you? I took the night off and I find myself at loose ends.”
“Like me,” Sookie said, and then realized she’d given away too much. “It’s not that I’m lonely,” she started to explain, and then blushed harder, realizing she was just digging the hole deeper.
“You are lonely?” He said it as if it would never have occurred to him, and then after a moment, “Of course. You would not have made friends at The Grand and Pam has been busy with Clancy. I apologize for that. We had an opportunity to expand our business and I didn’t wish to miss it. I didn’t think about how that would affect you.”
“That’s okay,” Sookie shrugged. “It’s nice of you to say, of course, but I would never expect you to change how you do things because of me. We’re friends, that’s all.”
Sookie didn’t see him move. She was in his arms and his lips were on hers. Her hands came up to push him away, but, instead, they pulled him to her. It was as if her head just switched off and her heart and that area down lower roared into overdrive. It was the park all over again and Sookie could swear she felt a wind form around them, pushing them closer instead of blowing them apart. His mouth slanted over hers and she opened her lips to admit him. Their tongues danced, and then his hands swept up her back, and then down again to pull her against him. Her hands slipped around him to massage his butt, before Sookie looped her arms up and around his neck and that pressed her against him, leaving nothing to her imagination. She could feel his chest, hard against her breasts and his harder length nestled against her stomach.
Eric’s arms loosened and he pulled her away a little, allowing him to look at her, “I’ve missed you,” he told her. His fangs were peeking out from under his upper lip and Sookie pulled his head back to hers so she could lick them. He moaned and it made her feel strong and desired.
Eric pulled back again, “We must stop,” he told her, “Or we won’t stop and you will regret it.”
Sookie gulped and took a steadying breath before suggesting, “We could be friends with benefits.” She knew it was a bad idea, but her heart was pounding, drowning out all her good intentions.
Eric’s eyes narrowed, “I do not wish to be your friend, Miss Stackhouse. I intend to be your Lover. I intend to have you for my own and I have no interest in sharing you.”
There was something in the way he said it that made Sookie gulp. “I don’t know you very well,” she stammered.
“I intend to fix that, too,” and laughing, light Eric was back. He pushed Sookie into one of her kitchen chairs, and then walked to the opposite side of the table and sat down.
“May I get you something?” Sookie asked automatically, then blushed again, “I’m sorry. I guess I don’t really have anything to offer you.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Eric laughed, “but, no, I’m fine.” He looked at the open laptop again. “Pam told me you are thinking of opening your own B&B here in Ireland.”
Sookie glanced at the screen, “I’d like to, but it will be awhile before I can afford to buy anything here. The first step is getting my citizenship in order and that’s going to take pretty much everything I’ve saved so far. Still, it’s the first step and that’s how any journey starts, right?”
“Perhaps there’s something I can do to help,” Eric offered. He’d sat back, allowing the tension between them to dissipate.
“I appreciate it,” Sookie nodded, “but I’m doing okay, no snags. I have most of the paperwork together. It’s just saving up for the fees.”
“Why don’t I give you the money?” He just said it, but the thought made Sookie’s breath catch.
“I couldn’t!” Sookie shook her head. “I’m working and it’s not that much, not really. It won’t take me that long.”
“I don’t understand,” Eric’s eyebrows drew together, “I have the money. I’d be happy to give it to you.”
“There’s a word for women who take money from men. If you really mean it as a loan and you draw up a contract, I’m fine, but I’d rather not have money between us, if you know what I mean.” Sookie wasn’t sure Eric did know what she meant. His head was cocked to the side and he looked confused.
“I don’t understand. I have money, more than I can use. This would make you happy…”
“And beholden to you,” Sookie interrupted. “I don’t want to be beholden to another man.”
“I am not Breandan Brigant!” Eric growled.
“And that’s another thing,” Sookie said, “I don’t feel like I’m in a position to encourage you. I don’t know where I stand with Breandan, I really don’t. I know I’m angry with him, but there’s history there, Eric. We’ve been together for awhile and through some tough times and he says he wants me back. It’s not that I don’t like you, but I don’t know you. Breandan was there with my Mom and he took care of us. He protected us. I can’t explain it, but I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
“He doesn’t respect you,” Eric was looking down his nose at her. “He may tell you what you wish to hear, but his motives are not true.”
“I get where you’d say that, seeing as how you’re telling me you want me to be your Lover and all,” and Sookie didn’t bother hiding her sarcasm. “I won’t say I’m not attracted to you, really attracted, but I need to figure out where I stand with Breandan.”
“Are you sure what you feel for Breandan is affection?” Eric asked her. “You sound beholden to him, Sookie, not like a woman in love.”
“I don’t think I need your opinion on that right now!” For some reason, Eric’s words stung and Sookie had a sneaking suspicion it was because he was right. She stood. “Maybe it’s time for you to leave.”
“I apologize for my choice of words,” and Eric slightly bowed his head. It was frustrating. He had been there, she had trusted him, but Eric didn’t think this was the right time to tell Sookie how he had first met her. Instead, he waited until Sookie sat back down and said, “I wish we had met in Boston in a way that allowed you to know me. I am sure it was a difficult time, a confusing time. To lose loved ones is never easy.”
Sookie nodded, “My Mom was all the real family I had left,” and a tear slipped over her cheek. “I guess one good thing that did come out of it was I got to know my Aunt Linda again. She and I email now and she’s trying to find my brother, Jason. He joined the Navy and left us before my Mom got sick.”
“Family is important to you,” Eric said. He looked at the framed photograph of Sookie, her mother, and Breandan that had been taken that last Thanksgiving. It was the only picture hanging on the wall and Sookie had placed it where she could easily see it.
“It is,” Sookie agreed. “I think it can make you strong, knowing where you come from. There’s something about knowing you can fight and drift apart from someone but, in the end, you’re still connected, no matter what,” and Sookie thought of her brother.
The chime on the laptop sounded, telling Sookie she’d received an email. She glanced at the pop-up message before smiling at Eric. “My attorney from America,” she explained. “He’s working on finalizing my Mom’s estate through probate. Always seems there’s more papers that need to be signed and another decision for me to make.”
“Your Mother had money?” Eric asked.
“Not a bit!” Sookie shrugged. “I know! All this fuss over nothing, but Mr. Cataliades…”
“That is the name of your attorney?” Eric asked. There was something in his voice that made Sookie pay attention.
“Yes, Desmond Cataliades. He lived near my family in Worcester. When Mom got sick he helped us with all the papers, the power of attorney, that kind of stuff. Now, he’s wrapping up the rest for me.” Just saying the words brought it all back, but Eric didn’t seem to notice.
“It’s an unusual name, Cataliades.” Eric watched her carefully. “You knew him long?”
“Not really,” Sookie replied. “He moved into a house in our neighborhood a little while after we moved there. We didn’t see him much, mostly at neighborhood events. He decorated his house for Halloween, but, no, I wouldn’t say we really knew him. But it doesn’t matter. He’s helping me out for nothing, which is way more than I could ever expect.”
“You’ll accept services from him, but not a loan from me,” Eric observed.
“It’s different,” Sookie snapped back. “Mr. Cataliades has no expectations of me and you seem to have expectations by the bucket-load!”
Eric laughed, “You have a rare turn of phrase, Sookie!” He sobered, “I wouldn’t mention your choice of attorney to Breandan if you see him.”
“I’m pretty sure he knows,” Sookie shrugged. “We were sharing an email account until I booted him out, so he could have read my emails.”
“He has returned from his vacation,” Eric told her. When Sookie looked surprised, he added, “I expect you will see him again soon.
“He was on vacation?” Sookie knew her voice betrayed her. She hadn’t heard from Breandan in weeks, so knowing he was out of town gave her an absurd sense of hope.
“Yes, your knight in shining armor was traveling with friends,” Eric wanted to tell her it was with one particular friend, but he couldn’t bring himself to twist the knife. He wanted to tell her she was being watched and followed everywhere she went, tethered to an invisible leash. He wanted to tell her to reject Breandan Brigant once and for all, but he could see that, regardless of what he said, Sookie wouldn’t believe him. She would believe he was more motivated by jealousy than anything.
Eric glanced over at Sookie. She was staring at the photo he’d noticed earlier and she was smiling. ‘Not yet,’ he cautioned himself, so instead said, “Well, you won’t take money from me, so what if I offered you part-time work for your nights off? It would help you earn what you need that much faster.”
“Doing what?” Sookie asked and just as quickly, “So you know, I never know what nights I’ll be off until the beginning of the week.”
“I’m prepared to be flexible,” Eric shrugged. “Come waitress at Ghoul’s Kiss. Pam tells me you did that in America. There’s more business at the pub than I can handle. An extra set of hands would be appreciated and I can teach you to tend bar if you like. It’s good money and it doesn’t have to be every week. You can let me know when you aren’t coming in.”
“You’d do that?” Sookie was pretty sure this wasn’t a great idea, but it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. They negotiated her salary, which surprised Sookie. She was used to having tips be her primary income, but Eric explained how things worked in Ireland. “The tip is built in,” he told her. “If they leave you extra, it’s yours, but most don’t.”
“What if I start this Thursday?” Sookie asked and it was done.
“Thank you, Eric,” Sookie said as he left.
“That’s not the thanks I want,” he told her, and then he turned and snaked his arm around her waist, pulled her close, and kissed her. Sookie struggled, but only for a moment before melting into the feel of him against her. “Now, you’re welcome,” he said against her lips, then released her so suddenly she staggered.
“Asshole!” Sookie hissed and was rewarded by his chuckling as he ghosted down the stairs. He moved too quickly for a human across the yard, heading for the street. Sookie watched him and, for a moment, she thought she saw a shadow move independently among the rocks near the sea, but then it was gone. “You need some sleep!” Sookie told herself, “you’re seeing things,” and she turned the light off and headed back up the stairs.
“The vampires are there every night!” Rogan snarled. “And last night Northman was inside her apartment with her for a long time! What are they up to?”
“She’s working for them,” Breandan shrugged. “What do you care as long as she’s staying in your territory? How go things with Uncle Niall?”
“Why don’t you ask Claude?” Rogan sniped. “He’s his Grandfather, I’m sure he could tell you!”
“You know Claude is not close to his sire nor his family,” Breandan rolled his eyes. Rogan’s underlying message was always the same; Breandan might enjoy his time in his cousin’s bed, but he should be using the time productively to milk information from Claude and not just find his pleasure. “So, Father, does Niall continue to pay?”
“He does!” Breandan thought the tribute must be exceptional because Rogan was looking particularly satisfied. “He is determined to keep her safe. A pity he doesn’t know how non-magical she is. If he did, he might not pay so well.” Rogan’s eyebrows pulled together, “He must have unrest among his people that he is so willing to accept what I tell him of her. He hasn’t pushed me once for proof.”
Breandan’s eyebrows pulled together. It seemed unlikely his Uncle would fold this way unless it served his own purpose, but Rogan appeared too giddy in his triumph to question as he should, and then his giddiness was gone. “Why is she still living apart from you?” Breandan hadn’t noticed the swift change in his Father, so he stumbled his answer.
“She refused me,” Breandan realized his words sounded like failure, so he quickly added, “She wishes me to court her again. A test of sorts.”
“When is the last time you saw her?” Rogan wasn’t going to let this go.
Breandan lowered his head in resignation, “Almost a month ago. I needed to renew. I traveled to the forts.”
“But not alone,” and Rogan’s eyes narrowed. “I am happy for your occupations, Breandan, but it is foolhardy to think that all will remain well. Niall is paying a great deal for the hybrid. Word will travel, if it hasn’t already. You may think the vampires harmless, but I know better. For all you know, Northman has already told his Queen about her. Sophie-Ann is well-connected. It wouldn’t take her long to ferret out the truth. She probably already heard rumors through the Selkies you have watching her. Their races may not talk much, but they do talk. You seduced the hybrid once. She wishes to be courted. Get her back under your thumb!”
“For how long?” Breandan couldn’t help it. This month had been renewing. He reflected on all the feelings Sookie Stackhouse elicited. Yes, being with her had made him happy, happier than he remembered, but she also left him confused and angry. When he was with her, he lost his way. He considered forgetting who he was and what he was and that could not happen again. Mae was dead because of her. He and Claude fought. When his Father simply stared at him, Breandan whined, “Surely there is someone else who can do this?”
“You were able to overlook her deformities,” Rogan pointed out. “I can’t trust others here to do the same. Look what happened during her time at The Grand! You are the only one I can trust with this.” When Breandan didn’t agree right away, Rogan rose, “As your King, I command you! Bring her back to heel and do it quickly.”
Later, that night, Breandan told Claude his troubles. “I can think of better ways to waste your time,” Claude sympathized, “but, really, it shouldn’t be that hard. She wants romance and flowery words. I’ll write you a script. You romanced her once, you can have her dancing to your tune again.”
“There is no dying Mother this time to push her,” Breandan pointed out, “or well-meaning friends to trick into singing my praises.”
“She doesn’t know me well,” Claude shrugged. “I could befriend her. We can share secrets.”
“She’s smart and she can spot lying,” Breandan warned. “She’s working for the vampires and Northman hates you. That might cause problems.”
“How many excuses do you have?” Claude asked. “You want to secure her? I can get you there. Do you want my help or not?” Claude grabbed Breandan’s penis and stroked it, adding the extra twist to his wrist that soon had his lover hard. “It’s as easy as that,” he purred, leaning forward to nip at Breandan’s lips. “Seduction isn’t always in the act,” and he stroked hard, causing Breandan to moan. “It’s in the words,” and Claude nuzzled his nose along Breandan’s neck. “It’s in the small looks and long pauses,” and Claude punctuated his words by licking the delicate curve of his lover’s ear. “It’s being in her head,” Claude ran his thumb over Breandan’s weeping tip, then turned away, pressing his forehead against the mattress, “Now show me where you want your head, Breandan.”
Breandan reached for the lube they’d used earlier, flipping the cap, and squeezing it onto his hard length. He threw the tube aside, stroking himself twice and then inserting two fingers, and then three into Claude’s puckered rosebud, stretching and massaging a little before moving into position and pushing slowly forward.
“Was her ass this good?” Claude sighed, moaning as Breandan withdrew and then pushed forward more forcefully. “Did she even allow you fuck her this way?”
She had. It had taken some time to prepare Sookie, but the experience had been satisfactory. Breandan stilled, but Claude was having none of it. “Fuck me, you bastard!” he growled. “Show me who you prefer!” Claude reached beneath them and grabbed Breandan’s balls, twisting a little and then squeezing. Breandan slapped Claude’s ass, and then grabbed his cousin’s hips hard enough to raise bruises. It was brutal, the way Claude liked it. Breandan felt Claude’s ass clench around him as his cousin rocked backward, burying Breandan deeper. Claude’s hands clenched the sheets and Breandan came with a roar. Yes, he had fucked Sookie Stackhouse like this, but she wasn’t as good as Claude. No one was.
“Hello,” Maryann greeted Breandan at the door. “She’s working.”
“I thought she would be,” Breandan smiled. He was dressed in the same kind of clothes he’d worn in Boston, casual slacks and a white, button-down shirt. He held out a bouquet of flowers wrapped in green florist paper. “If you’d see that she gets these,” he said with his best smile. “And if you’d give her this,” and he held out an envelope.
“Sure,” Maryann shrugged, “for all the good it will do you. It’s been awhile. A girl gets over things when she has time to think.”
“Well, a man understands what he’s lost when he takes that time. I hope you’re wrong and Sookie has some small part left in her heart for me.” Breandan let his eyes soften and when Maryann met his gaze, he captured her. “Tell her how much I missed her,” he sighed. “Make her believe it.”
“I will,” Maryann readily agreed. Breandan released her and she came back to herself with a start. She looked at him as if she didn’t quite remember why he was there or why she was, but then her mouth turned down and with a quick, “Good day,” she shut the door.
Sookie was in the kitchen, finishing a batch of fried potatoes for tomorrow morning. “Breandan O’Hara just dropped these off,” Maryann told her, and then held out the flowers. “He seemed pretty sincere about missing you.”
Sookie shrugged, “You can leave those on the table,” she said with a jerk of her chin. “I would rather finish things here than waste one more minute on Breandan.”
“There’s this, too,” and Maryann held up the envelope. When Sookie didn’t move to take it, Maryann set it on the table, but the flowers she took to the sink. She pulled out a vase and actually took some care clipping the stems and arranging them.
“Are you okay?” Sookie asked.
“Of course!” Maryann answered. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie was watching her boss. “You aren’t acting like yourself. I’d just as soon throw those in the trash, but you’re being all nice about it.”
Maryann looked thoughtful before saying, “I can’t explain it either. Maybe I just think it’s worth giving someone like him a second chance.”
Sookie finished what she was doing first. She put the potatoes on towels to drain and then, wiping her hands, she picked up the envelope and slit it open.
‘My Sookie,’ it started. The words that followed explained how hurt Breandan felt, blaming Sookie’s lack of trust. ‘If you trusted me, you would follow your heart. You would not feel the need to wait. You would jump to me, as I have wanted to jump to you.’ Sookie heard her Mother’s voice, teasing her for over-thinking things. She remembered all the times her Mother told her that analysis-paralysis would cost Sookie the things she wanted someday and Sookie wondered if Breandan might be one of those things. Had her cautious approach to their courtship been unfair?
‘I’ll think about this later,’ Sookie promised herself. She finished in the kitchen and then ran across the driveway in a light rain to get cleaned up. Tonight, she would be waitressing at Ghoul’s Kiss. As she got her clothes ready for the hamper, she automatically went through pockets and her fingers found Breandan’s letter again.
“I don’t know!” she said out loud. She threw the letter into the wastebasket, but when she got out of the shower, she took it back out again. She thought of her Mother and she thought of the way Breandan rescued her the first night he came to her apartment. She thought of the galleries and parks he’d found just for her. “Do you mean it?” she asked the letter, wishing it was a crystal ball, showing her Breandan’s true heart, but that voice inside her was yelling, ‘People can write lies as easily as saying them!’
The night was warm, but the misty rain was persistent, so Sookie was a little chilled when she walked into the pub. A quick glance showed it was going to be a busy night. It was barely seven. The music wouldn’t start until nine and wouldn’t really get rolling until later, but the tables were already crowded. There were two waitresses bustling back and forth and Sookie wasn’t sure there was really a need for her to be there, but the bartender beckoned her over and pointed to the tables along the far wall.
It was like riding a bicycle. The minute her apron was in place, Sookie fell into the rhythm of taking orders and making small talk. Her customers were more drinkers than eaters, but she changed that, pointing out specials and highlighting items, figuring anything that boosted the bill and put some food in the patrons’ stomachs had to be a good thing. One hour passed, and then another. People were lined up at the door, but no one looked anxious to leave and Sookie watched the other waitresses accept this. Apparently, it paid to get to the pub early and get your seat. As nine rolled around, the music started and soon Sookie was delivering drinks with a little extra hop in her step. It was almost impossible not to smile and sing along. The music spoke to her as it always did. She didn’t feel tired and her feet didn’t ache. Instead, she felt joyous and her customers seemed to feel joyous with her.
After delivering another round of drinks, Sookie leaned against the wall. “Can you take this back to Eric?” It was someone Sookie didn’t recognize, but the papers she was handed looked like the kinds of receipts she was used to seeing most nights.
“Sure,” she shrugged and headed toward the office. The door was closed, but that wasn’t unusual. Sookie knocked once and swung the door open. Eric’s back was toward her and he was leaning over. In an instant, Sookie realized he was drinking from someone. His hands were resting on someone’s shoulders and his jaw was working.
“I’m sorry!” she stammered, her breath catching. The papers slipped from her hand.
“Sookie.” He didn’t turn toward her, but his head lifted, “Don’t leave. Close the door.”
“I should…” Sookie struggled to find the words. She was embarrassed and horrified, but, still, there was a certain fascination that kept her riveted in place, like the impulse that made her look when she drove past a car accident.
“Please,” he said, “Please, stay,” and that did it.
Sookie shut the door. Her face was burning and she stammered, “I’m sorry for barging in, Eric. I should have waited for you to say something.”
Eric turned around then. Sookie could see the person standing in from of him was Moira, one of her fellow waitresses, but Moira didn’t move, she just stood stock still. “You have wondered about how we feed,” he said to Sookie.
“Not that much,” Sookie lied.
Eric knew. He always knew. His eyes gave her that look that said, ‘Liar!’ as clearly as if he’d said it out loud. “Walk closer,” he told her.
Sookie felt as if she was walking through mud. Her feet felt heavy, but she forced herself to move forward until she passed Eric and Moira. Moira’s eyes were unfocused and dreamy. “What’s wrong with her?” Sookie asked.
“She’s glamoured,” Eric said his eyes watchful. There was no kindness in his face, but there was no cruelty either. “She won’t remember any of this.”
“You don’t think that’s wrong?” Sookie gulped. “Feeding from her this way? She didn’t agree to this, did she?”
“No,” Eric replied. He lifted his finger to his fangs and pricked it. He showed Sookie the blood and then he moved his other hand, revealing the puncture wounds on the woman’s neck. Sookie couldn’t help it. She gasped. Eric quickly rubbed his own blood against the punctures and before Sookie’s eyes, they disappeared as if they’d never been there. “Hand me the wipes,” he told Sookie and pointed to the box on his desk.
Eric cleaned up Moira’s neck, but mostly he watched Sookie. “I’m going to wake her up now,” he told Sookie. “I’d like you to stay after she leaves,” and when Sookie looked away, her breath coming a little too quickly, Eric added, “Please, Sookie!”
When Sookie nodded, Eric relaxed. “Don’t startle her. If you act oddly, she will form questions and it will frighten her.” He walked in front of Moira and a little to the side. He looked at the waitress and when he had her eyes, he said, “Thanks again, Moira. Don’t worry about dropping those papers, Sookie will pick them up.”
In an instant, Moira’s eyes were clear and she looked behind her at the receipts Sookie had dropped on the floor. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I am so sorry! I don’t know what happened!”
“Again,” Eric was speaking easily as if nothing extraordinary had happened, “it’s no big deal. You’ve been working for hours. Why not take off early? With Sookie here, we can handle your tables and don’t worry about the hours. I won’t dock you.”
“Thanks, Eric!” Moira was smiling broadly. “You really are the best!”
Eric followed Moira to the door and then he shut it behind her. He didn’t look at Sookie. Instead, he stooped down and started to pick up the papers.
“Who told you to bring these to me?” Eric asked, holding the papers up so she knew what he meant.
“I didn’t recognize him,” Sookie tried to remember the man’s face, but she found she couldn’t.
“Did you notice anything different about him? You can see the Fae as they are, can’t you?” and Eric watched her closely.
“You mean how they look under that thing they do?” Sookie nodded.
“What about vampires?” Eric continued to quiz her. “Can you tell us on sight?”
Sookie nodded again, “Once I know what you are, it’s pretty easy for me to spot you. I saw some other folks once in Boston. They weren’t like Breandan or you, but I could tell there was something different about them.”
Eric nodded, “Those were probably Selkies Rogan sent to find you,” and then, realizing he’d told her he had some knowledge of Boston, he waited to see if she’d catch him. She didn’t disappoint him.
“How do you know that?” Sookie asked. “Is that why Breandan went to Boston? He was looking for me?”
“I don’t know enough to say,” Eric told her. “But I do know someone who can.”
Sookie nodded and her eyes fell back on the bloody wipe in the wastebasket and the image of Eric hunching over Moira came back. Sookie did know that was how it worked, that vampires drank blood, but knowing a thing and seeing a thing were different. She looked from the towelette to Eric, trying to reconcile the man she was seeing with the monster who had wiped blood from his mouth.
Eric saw the direction of her eyes. “It’s not a choice,” he said softly. “It’s how we survive.”
“I know that,” Sookie answered, but she realized she really hadn’t until now. “Does it hurt?” she asked.
“Being a donor?” It was an odd choice of words, seeing as Sookie knew Moira hadn’t volunteered, but somehow it did make Sookie feel a little different about it. Eric’s hands stilled and he looked up at her. “It can, but not the way I do it.”
“Will you show me?” Sookie wasn’t sure why she asked and she could tell it wasn’t at all what Eric expected. “I mean it. I’d like to know how it feels.”
“No,” he told her. He stood, papers in hand and walked back to the desk.
“Why?” Sookie asked. She wasn’t sure why his refusal stung. She opened her mouth to tell him she was just as good as Moira when he held up his hand.
“I won’t because feeding can also be an intimate act.” Eric was close now. He looked down into her eyes and she saw something there that made her want to get closer. “With someone like Moira, it is simply survival but, with you, Sookie, it would be something more.”
Sookie felt as if electricity was running through her. She wanted to jump on this man. For one, mad, moment, she wanted to run her hands through his hair and wrap her legs around him, and then she felt angry at herself for feeling that way. “Sure,” she bit out. “I guess that’s as good an excuse as any!” She walked past him, heading for the door. Eric grabbed her hand, but she pulled it away from him. “No biggie! I’m sure my tables are wondering where I am. Besides, you didn’t hire me to spy on you. Again, sorry I intruded.”
Sookie finished out her night. Eric didn’t come back out of the office and she cashed out and grabbed her jacket. “Great night, Sookie!” the bartender called after her as she headed to the sidewalk.
Sookie waved her goodbyes and started down the sidewalk. It was late and the rain had mostly stopped, which was why she heard the footsteps behind her so clearly. Fisting her hand, she swung around only to find Eric Northman. “Were you going to hit me?” He was smiling, easy Eric again.
“What the hell, Eric!” Sookie cried. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“Come,” he gestured, “I’ll walk you home.”
Sookie didn’t reply. She just started walking. It was all so confusing and she was too tired to think it through. Eric was her employer, he told her he wanted her, and then he did things that scared her or made her question what she knew. She felt off balance with him and it made her not like him just a little bit more. The whole way home, he walked just a few steps behind her. They didn’t speak. When they got to the steps of her house, she finally turned, “Thank you,” she told him.
“Do you have questions about tonight?” he asked her.
“No,” Sookie lied. “I’m good.”
“I would like to take you to dinner,” Eric said. It was so unexpected that Sookie blinked twice.
“Have me for dinner?” she asked.
Eric laughed out loud. It was a startling sound but, at the same time, wonderful. “No, no!” he chuckled. “Take you to dinner. If you could let me know the next night you’re available, I’ll make arrangements.”
“Like a date?” Sookie was still confused.
“Like that,” Eric nodded.
Sookie found that, despite the rough evening they’d had, she liked the idea of going out with Eric. She couldn’t explain it. He was a bit of a scoundrel, but he made her laugh and he was straight with her, even when he thought it might upset her. “Is the night after tomorrow too soon?” she asked.
“I will check and let you know,” he replied. It seemed odd, but Sookie figured Eric would need to arrange backup for the pub. “Go inside, Sookie,” Eric told her. “It’s late and your morning will doubtless be busy.”
Still, Sookie waited. She looked up at Eric, willing him to kiss her again and as if feeling her pull, he started to lean toward her, but then he caught himself. His eyes widened, but he didn’t look angry, instead he smirked, “Enough tricks!” he scolded and with a wink, he turned and walked back down the driveway. He was almost all the way to the street when he turned back. Sookie was sure he was making sure she was looking, and then he shot into the sky like a rocket. Sookie’s breath came out in a rush and she said, “Wow! I’ve got to try that!” to no one in particular.
The next day came with more flowers from Breandan, and then, on Thursday, the flowers were accompanied by a recording of a song. The audio file showed up on Sookie’s phone. He texted that he’d written it for her and after she played it, she felt her heart melt. It was a waltz of sorts, slow and languid. She sighed and played it twice before reminding herself that flowers and songs weren’t the same as talking and yet, Breandan hadn’t suggested they get together.
She almost hit delete, but something held her back. Instead, she archived Breandan’s message and turned her attention back to finishing her work at the B&B. She bustled through things, but was so light-hearted, Maryann questioned the reason for her good mood. “I have a date with Eric Northman!” Sookie squealed.
Maryann shook her head, “They are flocking to you like bees to honey,” she laughed. “You better make sure you don’t get stung! Besides, I thought you were holding out to see how things worked out with Breandan?”
“I know I should!” Sookie agreed, “But I can’t help it. There’s something about Eric! I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m just not!”
When the hour came, Sookie was wearing her only black dress and her best pumps. She didn’t have a necklace, but Maryann loaned her a scarf and she looped it around her shoulders. Sookie stared out the window until she saw a black Mercedes pull up the drive. She was so excited she didn’t wait for Eric to come up the stairs. Instead, she walked down to meet him. He was just opening the lower door and she saw he was dressed nicely, but more casually than her.
“I guess I’m over-dressed,” Sookie stuttered.
“You look beautiful,” Eric told her. He caught her hand to keep her from heading back up the stairs. “You are dressed perfectly. Please, we should go.”
He insisted that she follow him to the car. He opened her door and waited until she snapped into her seatbelt before closing it. In no time, he was in the driver’s seat and they were flying down the road in the opposite direction from town. “I’ve never been out this way,” Sookie said, anxious to get some kind of conversation started.
“I’m not surprised,” Eric told her. “But you left Rogan’s territory before when you went with your friend to Carreigh.”
“How did you know that?” Sookie asked.
“Pam told me,” Eric replied. “and the person you’re going to meet told me as well.”
“What do you mean?” and Sookie felt her expectations sinking. “We’re not going to dinner? I thought you said this was a date.”
“It is of sorts,” Eric smiled as if he was doing something wonderful. “There is someone who wishes to meet you. I am taking you to the border between Rogan’s territory and his own.”
“Who is it?” Sookie asked.
“Your grandfather!” Eric announced. He smiled brightly. “Your family!”
“Niall?” Sookie remembered the name from the time she’d met her cousin Claudine. “How do you know him?”
“Ireland is a small country,” Eric told her, “and for the Fae, it’s even smaller. We all know each other. Your Grandfather asked me to arrange this.”
“Oh,” Sookie said again. She was excited, even anxious to meet her Grandfather, but her disappointment that she’d misunderstood Eric’s intentions were sharp. She spent the rest of the trip looking out the window and reviewing all her interactions with the vampire. He’d declared his intentions and he’d kissed her, but she’d kissed him first and with what Breandan said about the Fae and sex, that could mean just about anything. It was possible that Eric was nothing more than another opportunist, willing to take advantage of what was offered.
Sookie recalled how Eric had refused her offer to have him feed from her. He’d told her that feeding from her would be intimate and the way he’d said it made her think she meant something more to him, but it was equally possible all he wanted was exactly what he’d said, a Lover, and that possibility left her cold. For Sookie, even though she might say otherwise, the idea of love and sex were intertwined. It wasn’t that she didn’t like sex, she liked it a lot, but for her, it needed to be more.
Eric slowed, and then turned into a driveway. The countryside here was dark and Sookie didn’t see any other house lights aside from the ones ahead. “Where are we?” she asked.
“Niall has arranged a dinner for you,” Eric answered. He parked the car before turning to her. “Go ahead. He is waiting.”
“You’re not coming in?” It seemed the final blow.
“No,” Eric cocked his head to the side. “There is nothing to worry about. Niall is anxious to meet you. He asked to have this time to be just the two of you.” Eric reached into the back seat and when he turned back, he had a book. “I will wait here for when you’re ready.”
Sookie opened her door. Eric hadn’t jumped out, nor offered her his hand. ‘Just delivering me,’ Sookie thought as she walked up to the front door. She pasted a smile in place and raised her hand to knock, but the door swung open.
“You’re here!” Claudine greeted her. She wrapped Sookie in her arms and kissed her as she had in Carreigh, making Sookie forgot her bruised feelings in the wonderful sense of well-being she felt being in her cousin’s arms.