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.
Falling asleep was strange. One minute Eric was ‘there,’ in her thoughts and the next he was just gone. Sookie was astride him, sweaty and satisfied, and it was as though when he disappeared, so did she. That’s why she was so surprised to awaken on her side, spooned into him, his cool heavy arm around her. What was more surprising was Sookie experienced no moment of confusion. She didn’t wonder where she was or whom she was with, she knew right away.
It took some twisting to escape Eric’s grip, but once she did, he flopped over onto his back. Sookie scrambled to the edge of the bed and ran to the bathroom. Nothing hurt, although plenty should have, and she couldn’t stop grinning, thinking about last night. “Hussy!” she play-scolded, but she couldn’t hide her satisfaction.
As she washed her hands, she stared at herself in the mirror. It was the same old Sookie looking back, but she didn’t feel like the same old Sookie underneath. The old Sookie, maybe the real Sookie, was practical. She thought things through and didn’t let herself get pushed into situations. The old Sookie held off getting engaged to Breandan, even though her dying Mother wished it. The old Sookie didn’t take a ring from one man and then marry another, the ring barely off her finger, but the woman staring back at her had just done all those things.
Sookie turned around and her thighs stuck together. Rolling her eyes, she stepped into the shower and turned on the water. “Guess it doesn’t matter that you’re mostly dead,” she said aloud, and then snort-laughed. She’d used a line from one of her favorite movies, “The Princess Bride.” “Westley!” she exclaimed, thinking of Eric’s bright blond hair and blue eyes, and then she laughed some more. Running her soapy hands over her breasts, she trilled, “Inconceivable!” and then, “This is true love, do you think that happens every day?” and after she said it, Sookie stilled, allowing the water to run over her.
“Is it?” she asked the water. “Is that what this is?” It seemed so unlikely, but, just standing here, Sookie felt the loneliness of not feeling him. ‘Forever,’ her inner voice told her. For the rest of her life, she would never walk alone. Eric Northman would be with her, at the edge of her thoughts, sending her feelings and sharing his own and that was daunting.
There were towels and several short robes hanging on hooks, so Sookie took advantage of them. Climbing back on the bed, she kneeled next to Eric. There were still lights on above her, and Sookie couldn’t help allowing her eyes to wander over the vampire. His feet were large, but narrow. His arms were muscled, but not too much, and his shoulders and chest put every other man she’d ever seen to shame. Across his chest was a light dusting of curly, blond hair and Sookie ran her fingers through it, trailing down over his stomach, following the happy trail to where his penis lay over his hip. He wasn’t circumcised, which didn’t surprise her. The hair around his sex was matted and Sookie considered getting a washcloth to clean him up, then dismissed the idea. She ran her fingertips over his thighs and then his calves, moving around the bed and looking at him from all angles. “Husband,” she tried out the word and it made her breath catch.
He was so different from Breandan. She felt guilty comparing them, but she wasn’t sure how she could avoid it. Positioning herself back near his shoulder, Sookie stilled, twisting the heavy gold band on her finger and thinking. She thought of the way her eyes searched for Eric at Ghoul’s Kiss. She thought about Eric when he was a dog back in Boston, and how he saved her. “You keep doing that, don’t you?” she asked his inert form.
Sookie ran her fingers over the round, white scar on her own abdomen where Eric had bitten away the burning skin when she was stabbed with that iron knife. It reminded her, and she examined him, looking for scars. She reasoned if Eric really had been a Viking, he would have scars too, but if he’d earned any, they were well hidden.
“You were the first one to help me out,” she said out loud, thinking of how Eric hired her as his bookkeeper and gave her waitressing hours so she could earn money to buy her dream. Of course, he didn’t always make her happy. After meeting her Grandfather, she stopped talking to Eric, sure it was the end for them. She was angry that Eric hid things from her, and then Breandan took her sailing. “I don’t know why I said yes to Breandan,” Sookie confessed. “Maybe it was because I was so disappointed in you.”
On a whim, Sookie leaned over and kissed Eric’s still lips, “But this feels different. I should be regretting this, but I’m not. Not yet.”
Behind her, the door opened, and Sookie jumped. A man wearing a dog collar and gym shorts dropped a tray on the table next to the door. “Dinner,” he grunted and without another word, left, locking the door behind him.
Sookie pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. “It really feels like I stepped through a rabbit hole,” she told Eric’s silent form. “You never made me feel like all those bad movies about vampires were real, but now I’m not so sure.” Sookie glanced back at the door and then laid down next to Eric, placing her cheek against his arm. She had no expectation, but just touching him made her feel safer, and then, something unexpected happened. He twitched and for one, brief, moment, she felt him in her head, his feelings reaching for her, and it made everything better.
Sookie waited, wondering if she’d feel him again, but she didn’t, and then her stomach growled. “Be back in a minute,” she whispered. It was a microwave sandwich with a bag of potato chips, but Sookie was too hungry to care about how bad it tasted. She drank the bottled water that came with the meal and then filled the bottle from the spigot in the bathroom and drank that, too. Glancing toward Eric, she said, “I don’t suppose describing how that sandwich tasted would make any difference to you.” She took one last look at the tray in case there was a cookie hiding there before walking to her purse and waking up her phone. It was already afternoon, so Sookie checked to see what time sundown would happen. “Two hours,” she said out loud before tucking the phone back in her purse. Sookie hadn’t brought a charger and the power was almost ready to switch to battery mode.
“Two hours until sundown,” she sighed again. Sookie glanced at the fetish equipment that lined the walls. It wasn’t that she was interested, but she’d never really seen any of this in real life, and so she spent some time walking from one apparatus to the next, trying to figure out how it was used. By the time she’d arrived at the dangling manacles, she’d had enough and retreated back to the bed.
“At least you’re okay sitting with me while I eat,” she told the vampire. When she’d been living at The Grand and going to Ghoul’s Kiss for dinner every night, Eric often joined her. He seemed perfectly comfortable sitting across the table. He usually sipped blood from a mug while the two of them talked. “Guess we won’t be hiking together, though,” she sighed.
Sookie thought about how the countryside looked when the sun shone through clouds and mornings filled with the bright songs of birds. She thought about walking down country lanes when the leaves turned color and the spicy, heavy smell the air took on in Fall on warm, Indian summer days. “We’ll never share that,” she said sadly.
Then, Sookie thought about how she felt when Eric teased her, or when he asked how she was feeling about things. She thought about their conversations and how he always asked her to describe what she’d done that day. Sookie thought about how it felt to fly, wrapped in Eric’s arms, and she thought of how her heart expanded last night when he’d looked at her as if she was the only thing that existed for him. “We’ll figure this out,” she told him and stroked his cheek. His skin was cool, but not unpleasant, and she rubbed her fingers over his slight stubble. “Do you shave?” she asked. She looked him over again as she thought of other questions. “Does your hair grow? Do you get haircuts?” Eric’s hair was longer, though not as long as Breandan’s. Somehow, she couldn’t see Eric ever pulling his hair into a bun on top of his head. It just wasn’t his style. “If only you played music,” she sighed, “you really would be perfect!”
Sookie settled back down beside Eric. She twined her fingers through his slack ones, pulling his hand a little closer. “This isn’t me,” Sookie said. “I appreciate that you and Grandfather think I’m in danger and I appreciate that you think I could be a danger to other people, but this still isn’t something that old Sookie would do. You may have noticed, but I don’t like to be pushed into doing things. It kind of gets my temper going, but, I have to say, all in all, I’m not sorry about this.” On impulse, Sookie kissed Eric’s shoulder, and then she closed her eyes, waiting to feel him rising to join her again.
There was nothing, and then, there was that pulse of energy that grew until it roared forth, springing Eric’s eyes open as sentience returned. Waking vampire wasn’t like waking human. Eric remembered waking human as a slow, lazy process. There was turning and adjusting. Waking vampire was more like turning on a light switch. You were not, and then you were, and for over a thousand years, that was how it was. Until tonight.
Tonight, there was a new step introduced. Tonight, Eric came to realize there was a place between the darkness and the light he had never noticed before. It was the place where Sookie now lived and it was unsettling.
Eric’s eyes popped open and Sookie’s face was right above his. It was purely instinct, but he leaped from the bed and assumed a defensive stance, fangs bared.
“That’s nice!” Sookie huffed. She’d obviously been startled, too, and he could feel her rapid heartbeat thundering in his ears. His fangs itched and his first thought was to drain her. That was unsettling, too.
He sheathed his fangs with an effort. He drew in a breath, forcing himself to accept her scent and his reaction to it. “The bond may take some adjustment,” he apologized, and then, forcing himself to relax, he added, “Good evening, Sookie.”
She was kneeling on the round bed. She’d showered and was wearing a short robe. He could smell the old food on the tray near the door. Someone must have thought to feed her. Eric looked around the room again. He wondered if they’d been watched last night. The Queen had multiple cameras mounted in the ceiling and walls and she’d shown him the monitors she used on one of his past visits. If she had watched, Eric couldn’t imagine Sophie-Ann being pleased by what she saw. No purpose was served by feeding Sophie-Ann’s jealousy, but the temptation of making love with Sookie Stackhouse more than once had overcome caution. ‘Sookie Northman,’ he reminded himself. She would be living in his house. She would be interacting with townspeople. She would need to blend in, as much as any newcomer ever blended into a small Irish town, and that meant using his surname.
“You’ve been in here all day?” he asked. He knew she had, but it seemed a good place to start a conversation.
“How do the townspeople around here not question this place?” Sookie asked in return. “The man who brought me food wore a dog collar. Really?”
“People see what they wish to see,” Eric shrugged, “The Seelie have their masques. We all have glamour. Those who work here accept us. Most know what we are and they work here because they wish to become vampires. There are humans who will do anything to avoid their own deaths.”
“Like that girl last night?” and Eric could feel Sookie’s sadness.
“She didn’t die,” Eric reminded Sookie, “and it would be best to forget that.” He explained, “There are some among us who hold to the old ways. Sophie-Ann is one. She was turned very young, at a time when humans were cruel. She developed peculiar tastes, although she is usually more discrete. She wanted to upset you and make you afraid of me.”
“She’s a total bitch. Why do you serve her?” From Sookie’s perspective, Eric supposed it was a reasonable question.
“It serves my purpose to live in this country,” he answered. “I have traveled over most of Europe. I was made vampire in a place that is now Sweden and I wandered for a long time with my Maker. I have even lived in the United States, but Pam wanted to return here. The Fae live in Ireland in greater numbers than other places so we don’t have to work as hard at hiding, but to be in any country means pledging to the presiding Queen or King.”
“Why pledge to anyone?” Sookie asked. “You’re old, right? Doesn’t that earn you the right to call you own shots?”
“It’s not how we live,” Eric explained. “Our world, is broken into kingdoms. If you choose to live in a territory, or kingdom, the presiding King or Queen must grant you permission. In exchange for that permission, you pay a portion of what you make, a tithe, to the Ruler. It’s a good system. Vampires are strong and we could easily become a menace to the communities where we live. Before the Kings and Queens, there was no order, and we were hunted almost to extinction. This arrangement brings order and safety. I am old enough to remember both ways, Sookie, and I assure you, this is the better choice.” He smiled before telling her, “When I offered my skills here the Queen made me Sheriff. Because she granted me standing, Pam, as my Child, was also invited to move here.”
“So, Pam couldn’t have just moved here on her own?” It made Eric grin. It was one of the things he liked about Sookie. She didn’t get bogged down in her own problems. She’d just spent a whole day locked in an orgy room with a dead man. Other women would have greeted him with tear-stained faces or angry demands. Sookie sought knowledge.
“Yes, she could have. Sophie-Ann would have contacted me, asking for my promise against Pam’s behavior. Pam is still considered young in our world, but she’s establishing her own reputation. Soon, she won’t need my sponsorship. She’ll be welcome wherever she lands.” Pam had traveled apart from him several times now. It suited her independent nature, but he felt flattered when she returned to work with him. It was something he had no interest in doing with his own Maker.
Eric’s fangs itched again. He was hungry and Sookie smelled wonderful. Sookie’s face stilled and her eyes widened. “Oh, do you need to eat?” She had fed him several times last night, mostly small amounts, except for when they bonded. Had he not fed her his own blood, she would have felt lethargic today. As it was, she was probably feeling some after effects, like being thirsty. She should also feel more energetic and in time, she would start to glow. Sookie was nowhere near turning, but Eric expected she would manifest more vampire-like qualities; her eyesight would improve and she would begin to hear and smell things more clearly.
Eric took another breath, making sure he had his baser instincts under control, before walking back toward her. “I am hungry,” he purred.
She couldn’t mistake his intent, “I showered,” she protested, but her eyes brightened.
Eric stopped at the edge of the bed and held out his hand, “Really? Let me see!”
“I think you can ‘see’ plenty from right there!” Sookie teased.
Eric moved, using his speed. He grabbed her ankle and pulled her right to the edge of the bed, and then dropped to his knees, spreading hers so she was open before him. “I’d rather see this way,” he laughed. Feeding from a woman’s thigh as she orgasmed was one of his favorite things. There was something about the combination of scent, endorphin-fueled blood, and breathy gasps that made it the perfect experience. Eric usually glamoured his partners the first few times until they became used to it, but that wasn’t possible with Sookie.
It was a risk. She might reject him, but it would be the first of many things he expected he’d have to teach her if they were to have a harmonious relationship. He felt her hesitation, and then realized she was probably reacting to his own concerns, so instead he focused on the job at hand.
he tasted wonderful. Women tasted differently, but Sookie tasted best. He knew it was in part because of her Fae heritage. The Fae were sensuous creatures and he’d made love with both Fae men and women over the centuries. The Seelie, in particular, were appealing. Their blood, all parts of them, had that tang of honey and he tasted it now. He lifted his eyes, watching how his fingers and tongue drove her. There was nothing so satisfying as a woman who loved sex and Sookie definitely loved sex. He closed his eyes. He could hear her blood as it rushed through her arteries and veins. She was starting to arch, pressing against him. She gripped his head with her thighs. She was close. Eric allowed her ecstasy to wash over him, the bond making the experience even better. He turned his head, licking her thigh, preparing her. She was close and he increased the speed of his fingers, triggering her. She called out and he struck, her blood bursting in his mouth, a revelation, and he came. It was perfect. His eyes rolled back as he let the sensation take him. Her feelings, his feelings. He wanted to pull away from her, roaring in triumph, but he caught himself.
Instead, he carefully retracted his fangs. He pierced his finger, rubbing his blood into the wounds, and then licking them to hurry their healing. He moved forward over the bed, lying beside her and gathering her in his arms. He knew humans liked to be held after, but the fact was, he did, too.
Sookie ducked her head against his shoulder, stroking him, smelling like her enticing self. It made him believe that being bonded to this creature would have its advantages.
“So, when do we get to leave?” she asked.
“That’s all I get?” Eric chuckled. “More demands?”
To his delight, Sookie screwed up her mouth up and sassed, “I think you just got plenty!”
He laughed, and then it occurred to him that she might be serious. He didn’t sense it, but, “You are feeling well? I could give you my blood…”
“Do I feel unhappy?” she asked and poked him in the chest. “I have to say, this feeling you thing is… well… Quite the thing!”
“You like it?” Eric grinned again.
“I’m getting used to it,” she confirmed. “So, like I said, when are we getting out of here? I could use new clothes and real food. I don’t know what that microwaved sandwich was they threw at me, but it was terrible!”
As if to emphasize the point, Sookie’s stomach grumbled. Eric knew that meant she was really hungry. Vampire blood would suppress her appetite, something he’d have to watch. There were stories of pets literally wasting away because they were never hungry. ‘Wife,’ he reminded himself. ‘Sookie Northman.’ “We should shower,” he said aloud. There was a part of him that couldn’t help but preen. He had decided he wanted her. He openly challenged Niall Brigant, telling the Fae King he would have her. Now, Sookie was his. ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ It was one of Pam’s sayings and he couldn’t understand why he thought of it now. Everything was going as planned. He saw, he stalked, he captured.
Sookie in the shower was as delightful as Sookie last night. She was hesitant at first. When he pressed her for an explanation, she confessed that being with him in the shower brought back memories of her time with Breandan Brigant. “We’ll take care of that!” he playfully growled and he used his connection with her to make sure she enjoyed their time together.
“It is the way of things,” he soothed as he toweled her off afterward. “The memories of your past give way to the memories of your present.” He lifted her hand to kiss his ring. “You are mine, now. We will make our own.”
When they emerged from the bathroom, Pam was awaiting them. “Everything is ready?” Eric asked.
“The car’s outside,” Pam nodded, then smiled at Sookie. “Technically, you’re my Mistress, now, but maybe it would be less confusing if we called each other sisters, or sisters-in-law.”
“Really?” Sookie’s eyes lit up and Eric felt how much Pam’s words meant her. There was a melancholy strand in Sookie and he considered again what he knew of her and how she’d grown up. “Thank you,” Sookie was telling his Child as she hugged Pam, an action which amused Pam no end.
Eric pulled his clothes together. They were none the worse for wear, but Sookie’s dress was another matter. Pam helped her zip up the back, but it left his wife bare-legged, both hose and garter belt destroyed. Sookie struggled with the shoes, so Eric settled it by simply picking Sookie up. “It won’t take long to get home,” he assured her.
As they walked through the halls, the Queen’s retinue was curiously absent. Eric had the feeling this was not a good sign. Sophie-Ann was not known for her ‘forgive and forget’ nature, and the empty halls had Eric certain his Queen would find a million ways to punish him. Eric glanced at Sookie, pushing worries aside It didn’t do to dwell on what couldn’t be changed.
Just as they were headed for the door, Sigebert stepped into their path. He nodded to Eric, and then inhaled. Glancing at Sookie, he nodded, once more, and then stepped aside, allowing Eric and his party to pass.
Eric handed Sookie into the backseat of Pam’s car. It was logical. Her legs were shortest, but, almost immediately, he felt that low feeling from her, the one that meant she was disappointed. “The house is only fifteen minutes away,” he said, leaning around the backrest, and Sookie seemed to settle.
It had been a long time since Eric had a human in his life. Suzanne was his for several years before Claude seduced her away. Eric felt great affection for Suzanne but, with the bond and its non-stop flow of emotions from Sookie, Eric started to realize this time things were different. For one thing, as close as he’d been to Suzanne, he’d never shared a house with her. She had her own house and he’d visited her. It was different times, to be sure. Humans still staked and burned his kind, so not retreating to a secret place every night would have been suicide.
Sookie’s stomach was gurgling in the back seat. “Should we stop at a grocery store, or something?” she asked.
Pam shot him a look, but Eric shook his head, telling Sookie, “My Dayman has taken care of stocking food at the house.” He turned to look at her again, “If you find anything missing, we’ll take care of it.” He turned to Pam, “Contact Niall. Tell him what has happened.”
“I don’t think he’s going to be too pleased about the bonding,” Pam said carefully.
Eric was just about to say that he wasn’t happy about being forced to bond either, when he felt Sookie’s interest. “Let him know how it happened and assure him we are content,” he said instead. They were turning on to his road, so Eric decided to wait until they got to the house before saying anything more.
Eric hit the button on his key fob and the second garage door opened. As Pam had glided into the open space, it occurred to Eric that Sookie would need a car, living so far from town. It was a few steps and her door was open, and then Sookie’s hand was in his. He led her past his vehicle and opened the door into the house. The lights turned on automatically. Sookie’s eyes swept around, taking in the utility sink and tiled floor. “It rains here,” Eric explained. “This room allows me to clean up before I enter.” The real reason the room was tiled was that when Eric came home from nights interrogating covered in blood it was easier to clean up in here, but that wasn’t something he was ready to discuss. He pointed out the waterproof mat next to the kitchen entrance. “For your shoes. I don’t like having shoes in the house.” Sookie nodded, toeing out of the Crocs she’d found in the backseat of Pam’s car.
“I need to speak with Pam for a moment,” Eric explained as he reached around the wall and turned on the lights in the kitchen. “Why don’t you head inside and I’ll join you in a minute.”
Eric felt a sharp jab of irritation and it startled him enough that he raised his hand, but Sookie spun away from him, saying, “Yeah, sure,” before he could question her.
Eric walked back into the garage and Pam followed. He waited until the door was closed before saying, “Remind the Queen that someone should go with you to see Rogan. Sookie is under Sophie-Ann’s protection and, as her vassal, so am I, so that should protect you, but I don’t want Rogan’s temper getting the better of him.”
“I’ll be careful,” Pam laughed. “I almost hope the old bastard does go for me. These Seelie think too much of themselves. Putting down a miscreant like Rogan would be a useful lesson to them all!”
“Don’t underestimate him,” Eric warned. “Seelie have powers beyond the rest of us, even if they don’t parade them. I’ve seen a Seelie warrior freeze an entire battle so he could selectively kill his enemies.” He glanced at the house, “I should go. My mate is not happy I’ve left her waiting.”
“It’s interesting, seeing this side of you,” and Pam looked delighted rather than concerned. “She says jump and you ask how high? Bonding seems to be good for you!” Eric scowled, but, before she left, Pam laid her hand on Eric’s arm, “Are you sure you’re okay with this? Pledged is one thing, but bonded? This is forever, my Maker. She won’t be able to divorce you. You won’t be able to shake her.”
“It makes no difference now,” Eric shrugged. “It’s done,” and then he laughed again. “It looks as if Sophie-Ann decided to give up on me after all. I don’t think I’ll be getting another of her proposals any time soon.”
“Unless she decides to pledge to you both,” Pam suggested.
“I don’t think Sophie-Ann’s pride would allow that,” Eric replied, but his restless mind filed away the idea, turning it and turning it, seeing whether it might fit.
It didn’t feel good, being sent into the house like a child. Sookie glanced around the kitchen. The refrigerator looked used, but the stove was brand new. At the far end of the room was a farm-style kitchen table surrounded by matching chairs. There were windows and a set of French doors to the outside. Sookie walked over to them and stared out at more furniture set on a stone patio. She was standing where the glassed-in room was located in the cottage in Killary and in her imagination, she saw the image of Breandan and Claude play out again. ‘It’s over,’ she reminded herself, but the betrayal still hurt.
“So, this place is bigger,” she said out loud, dispelling the thoughts crowding around her. She walked to the double doors across the room and they smoothly slid back into the walls. ‘Pocket doors,’ she thought. She stepped into a decent-sized room with two comfortable chairs that faced a fireplace. As she stepped farther in, she could see a larger room that led off to the side. It had a step down and looked more like the gathering place for a large family than a room in a vampire’s home. She could see the outline of couches in the soft light, but her eyes were drawn back to the fireplace.
The inside wall in this room curved and Sookie walked through another door, finding herself in the front hall. To her left was the front door and to the right, a large staircase that circled gracefully upstairs. “Guess I won’t have to worry about falling down this one,” she told herself, thinking of the steep stairs at Killary. She ran her hand along the front wall until she found the light switches.
The stairs were the same warm-colored wood used in the rest of the house. The treads were wide and deep and at the top, Sookie found herself in a gallery. The door immediately in front of her opened to what had to be Eric’s office. The laptop was on, a screensaver bouncing back and forth. There was one large desk facing out the front window and a television mounted on the wall. “Wonder if he’s going to share?” Sookie asked herself. There was a closet and another door that led into a bathroom. It was one of those arrangements where the bathroom led into another empty bedroom. Sookie walked back into the gallery. The last door was set at the far side and it led to the master bedroom.
There were recessed lights in the ceiling casting a soft glow. There was a fireplace in here, too, and a dreamy canopy bed. There was a painting on the wall and the windows looked out to darkened landscape. An enormous arrangement of red roses decorated the dresser.
The room had a sitting area with another smaller bouquet of roses on a small table, and beyond this, more pocket doors that revealed the most indulgent bathroom Sookie had ever imagined. It was all in white tile with accent tiles in jewel colors. The bathtub had its own room with two steps that led up to it. The shower stall was recessed in the wall and accessed by opening a thick, glass door. Even the toilet had a room all its own. There was a linen closet loaded with soft, white towels and what Sookie was sure were heated towel racks installed on the walls.
“Do you like it?” Sookie jumped. She hadn’t heard Eric approaching.
“It’s overwhelming,” she answered.
“I want you to be happy here,” he purred as he laid his hands on her shoulders.
“It’s not the place that determines that,” Sookie smiled up at him before stepping away and walking back into the bedroom. There was another set of double doors and these opened to yet another room. The walls here were lined with built-in dressers and there was a low bench that ran down the middle. Eric flicked on switches and Sookie saw herself reflected in mirrors set so she could see all sides of herself at once. “It’s empty,” she noticed.
“Pam will make arrangements to bring your clothes here,” Eric assured her.
“But, what about your clothes?” she asked.
“My clothes are in my chamber,” he replied. “This is meant for you. This is your space.”
“Your chamber?” and Sookie’s chin jutted forward. “So, you won’t be sleeping in here, with me?”
“No,” Eric replied. What he was receiving from her was making him feel the need for caution. “I will join you, of course, if you wish, but I shouldn’t stay here. If you…”
Sookie interrupted him, “Because we’re different? Because I’m not like you? If this is some duty marriage for you, just say it! I’ll contact Niall. I’ll figure something out, but sleeping in separate rooms and living separate lives is not going to work for me!”
“If this is so important to you, I will make arrangements to ensure this room light tight,” Eric offered.
“I guess my point is this shouldn’t just be important to me,” and Sookie stamped her foot in frustration. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I was thinking earlier how I could make peace with this, but you probably figured this is like every other arranged marriage you Fae put together. You tolerate one another and if you end up liking each other, that’s a bonus. Me? I didn’t grow up that way. I grew up believing in fairy tales and happily ever after. I always believed the man I married would be someone I’d love, who’d love me in return.” She looked away, “Pretty silly, huh?”
“You think you love me?” Eric asked.
“I think I’d like to,” Sookie told him.
“Come,” and Eric took her hand. He led her back down the stairs and when they reached the bottom, he walked her around until they stood between a wall and where a closet might have been placed under the stairs. He pressed the wall, and a door Sookie hadn’t noticed sprung open. Eric turned on another light and he led her down another flight of stairs. These were not quite as nice as the ones above, but they were still wood, and when they reached the bottom of the stairs, more recessed lighting activated. “This is my chamber,” he told her. “If you are willing, until the one upstairs can be made ready, it will be ours.”
“You’re sure?” Sookie asked.
“You will tire of me,” Eric assured her. “You will tire of accommodating my life. To be forced to live always in night is more than an adjustment. You begin to doubt that colors were ever so vibrant. You struggle to remember the smell of the sun as it warms your skin.” Sookie felt it then, that strand of loneliness from him she recognized in herself.
“Why don’t we see how it works out before we make decisions about each other?” she asked, and then held out her hand to him.
“Are you offering?” he asked and Sookie couldn’t help grinning. It was in his pirate smile and the way his eyes lit up.
“You sure you won’t be the one getting tired?” she asked.
“Of this?” and Eric pulled her toward him, then turned her so he could pull down the zipper of her dress. His hands followed the dress’s fall to the floor. “I don’t think you should ever wear underwear,” he sighed, his hands drifting over her bare sex. “I will be negotiating, or tracking down some miscreant, and I will think, ‘Sookie is somewhere safe, open, and waiting for me,’ and it will make me do my best to conclude my business quickly.”
“I’ll need to be able to get upstairs while you’re resting,” Sookie sighed as he gently scraped his teeth along the column of her neck.
“I will make Bobby arrange it,” he sighed back.
“Who’s Bobby?” and Sookie became more alert, her curiosity piqued.
“You will meet him,” Eric assured her, using his hands and fingers to try and lure her back into a less wakeful state. “He is my Dayman, but soon, I will have another.”
“Dayman? You used that word before. What is it?” and the mood was broken.
‘You should be less curious,” Eric groaned and stepped away from his wife, flopping back on the bed. “Go ahead, ask your questions, because I’m sure I won’t be making any progress until you’re done.”
“You make it sound like a bad thing,” Sookie growled.
Eric placed her hand on his hard length, “This wants to be a bad thing, but your questions keep blocking him.”
“Does he have a name?” Sookie teased, squeezing just a little.
“Tristan,” Eric answered. “Because all these questions make him sad.”
“You brought it up,” Sookie sniffed, then sitting next to him, she proceeded to ask him how Daymen worked. “Do you suppose they have their own support system? Like a club for Daymen?” Sookie asked, when Eric told her that most vampires employed someone like Bobby.
“I never thought of it,” Eric admitted. “I have employed them off and on over the years, but, with my position, I tend not to retain anyone for long.”
“Why is that?” Sookie asked and Eric realized he now had someone consistent in his life, which meant he was more vulnerable, and so was she.
“I’m a Sheriff,” he shrugged. If he’d hoped that would be enough for Sookie, he was disappointed.
“So, why does that make a difference?” and Sookie cocked her head, clearly settling in. “I mean, you’re also a bar owner or pub owner. So, how does this Sheriff thing fit in?”
“Owning pubs is a cover,” Eric told her. “I don’t need money. Most Fae don’t. Most of us are very old and any need to acquire wealth ended long ago, but owning businesses helps us fit in. Pubs are a natural business for vampires. They are open at night. They provide a constant stream of willing humans. Because they drink, humans forget the odd thing they see, or they write it off to being drunk.” Sookie wasn’t looking entirely pleased with his explanation, so Eric continued, “For most vampires, that is enough. Some are newly-made so have more need for work. We owe tithes to our rulers and if you are unfortunate enough to be a new vampire made by a new vampire, the need to work may be most important.”
“Tithes? You mentioned those, too. How much do those cost you? I don’t remember seeing anything like that in your ledgers,” Sookie asked.
“It’s not something I record with my business invoices,” Eric shrugged. “My accounting for that is kept separate. For new vampires who have nothing else to offer, tithes may represent half of everything. For vampires who have services the ruler can use, like me, the tithes are reduced.”
“Half?” Sookie exclaimed.
Eric nodded, “Plus rights to anything else they own or control. Most rulers don’t enforce that part. Feeding from another vampire’s pet isn’t likely to build loyalty and vampires value loyalty.” He smiled at Sookie, “It’s one of the things I like best about you. You knew Breandan Brigant didn’t deserve you, but you defended him anyway.”
“And here I am, married to someone else less than a year later,” Sookie sighed. “Doesn’t exactly feel loyal to me.”
“Sometimes you need to accept what everyone else recognizes,” Eric shrugged, “and not be so stubborn.”
“You remind me of that when you piss me off and I kick your ass to the curb,” Sookie snapped back, making Eric laugh.
“You would, too. It’s a good thing I’m so much bigger than you! You would have a hard time dragging me up the stairs,” and he pulled her so she snuggled against him. It was comforting, holding Sookie. Eric wondered whether it was because she was Fae or something that was uniquely her.
She moved her head so her hair was under his nose. She smelled sweet and Eric started to purr. It wasn’t something he did often, but contentment could trigger it. Her fingers began to stroke his chest and he wondered if this meant questions were over, but it wasn’t to be. “So, what do Sheriffs do, exactly?”
“I enforce the Queen’s law,” Eric answered.
“Does that mean you’re the police for Fae?” Sookie asked.
“Yes.” Eric made an effort to remain neutral. This conversation was not one he wished to have now. He was sure there were aspects of his job that Sookie wouldn’t understand.
“So, I’ve married a cop,” and Eric could tell that amused Sookie in some way. He waited, hoping she’d move on, and she did. “I’m assuming I’ll still be doing your bookkeeping,” she said.
“If you’re willing. I’d also like to approach the Queen to use your services. It could build goodwill with her,” Eric said, repeating something he’d mentioned earlier. “And, then there are the Summits which we will be expected to attend.” Eric described Summits to her. He told her the upcoming schedule and how the meetings were a mix of business and parties.
“So, I’d be welcome?” Sookie asked.
“As my pledged and bonded, it would be odd if you weren’t there,” Eric confirmed.
“Pam says your blood is mine now.” Sookie didn’t sound confused about this, just wary.
“And you want me to confirm that?” Eric asked.
Sookie nodded, “And I want you to tell me exactly what that means.”
“It means I won’t allow any other to have my blood unless you offer it,” Eric told her.
“What else?” Sookie asked.
Eric could tell she was getting at something, but he couldn’t figure what it might be. “You need to tell me what you’re asking, Sookie. You are in a position to demand many things. Don’t be shy about asking what you wish to know.”
“Does that mean you can’t feed from anyone else?” she asked.
“Do you want that?” Eric asked in return. “I don’t need a great deal, but I do need to feed every day. Understand what you are offering.”
“Can you substitute bottled blood if something happens and I can’t be around?” Sookie asked.
“I can,” Eric replied, his eyes narrowing, “but drinking bottled blood is a hardship for me. It tastes terrible and it’s expensive.”
“But you have more money than you need,” Sookie quoted his words back to him. “And I’m willing to be that person.”
“But that’s not all of it,” and Eric continued to stare at her. “There is something more you want.”
“You’re right, there’s more,” she confirmed. “I don’t want you having sex with other people. Breandan seemed to think that being committed didn’t include being faithful.” She saw the image from Niall’s mirror in her head again and her heart clenched. “I’m a proud person,” she told Eric. “If the man I’m with doesn’t think I’m enough? It’s hurtful.”
“The Fae don’t see sex the way humans do,” Eric said carefully.
“I don’t care!” and Sookie’s jaw jutted. “I’m human, well, mostly, and that’s who you’re bonded to. You asked me what I wanted? Well, that’s it!”
“Fine,” Eric grinned. “Then, as long as you are mine, I will only fuck you,” and Eric tugged her, flipping Sookie on her back, “but I have some demands of my own.”
“Like what?” Sookie asked, her cheeks rosy.
“You will accept a car from me,” he breathed against her.
“A car!” she squeaked. “That’s too much!”
“You can’t live here and not have a way to get to town,” Eric spat back. “You may need to run errands or go see Pam. Consider it a wedding present.”
“I can’t…” and Sookie lost her thought as he brought his thigh between her legs, applying pressure in a rather determined way.
“You can and you will,” he growled. “And there will be more. You will accept my jewels and when we must be seen in public, you will wear them. You will not shame me by being too proud to do what is required by those of my rank. I will be buying you clothing…”
“It’s too much, Eric,” she breathed against him.
“And you will finish your college degree,” he declared before capturing her pebbling nipple between his teeth.
“You mean it?” Sookie stilled. She didn’t care about the material things, not really, but the degree?
Eric sensed the change that bloomed into happiness within his bonded and he raised his head. “Yes, Älskade, that is what I want from you.”
“But, it can’t possibly benefit you,” Sookie whispered.
“Oh, but you’re wrong,” he breathed. “It will please you and that, my Sookie, is what makes the bond sweet. What pleases you, pleases me.”
He captured her lips and Sookie opened readily to him. His hands moved and his muscles flexed. He shifted her and filled her and she rose to him, one continuous song of joy. ‘I love you,’ her brain was singing, but her voice only cried his name.