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.
Sookie stared into the night, enjoying the perfection of vampire memory. Although, in some ways, having total recall was worse. Memories from her human life tended to become softer with time, rounding out parts that were less harmonious. She knew when she was younger, she’d fought with Gran like any young person would, but now all she recalled was the pressure of arms around her and the comfort she felt remembering the sound of her Gran’s voice. Vampire memories weren’t like the same.
When she thought of the Christmas Ball, it was as if she was watching a documentary unfolding behind her eyes. Each aspect presented itself and as she traced her steps, new pieces fell into place. Bits of half-heard conversation became clear and the faces of those who’d passed her as she danced gained names. There were aspects of this experience that were every bit as disorienting as her telepathy had been, the snippets and images crowding her mind. The difference was Sookie could calm herself and slow things down, allowing her to examine each piece. She would never forget, but neither would her memories provide her heart the same kind of comfort.
Sookie fixed her gaze on the fuzzy stars that somehow made their light visible through the city lights and focused on the moment at the Ball when she watched Rick and Hunter become friends. Her handsome son had thrown his head back, laughing in a way that was the mirror of his Father, and Hunter joined him. It was a perfect moment.
“I thought I’d find you here,” Rick said from behind her.
“I like looking into the sky,” Sookie answered.
Rick stood beside her, tilting his face up. “It’s not like Chester, is it? Can barely see the first layer.” Sookie took her son’s hand in her own. It had been one of their favorite things, standing in their backyard at the B&B, staring up into the sky, picking out passing satellites and naming constellations. “Did you talk with Auntie Fran?” he asked.
“Of course,” Sookie answered. “Earlier, when you and Hunter were out playing music.”
Rick drew in a deep breath, then let it out. “Yeah, the guards were appreciative,” he teased, then shrugged, “We did a little busking near Jackson Park. Hunter’s pretty good. He sings better than me.”
Sookie squeezed Rick’s hand, “I’m so glad you found each other.” When Rick shrugged again, she pulled him closer. “It’s good to have family, Rick. Hunter’s good people.”
“He’s grateful for you,” Rick volunteered. It was an odd thing to say, but Sookie had learned to remain silent. This Rick was quiet, and once he started talking it was too easy to say something that seemed to cut off the conversation. He sighed, “It was really good of you and…Dad to get him.” Sookie didn’t miss the hesitation. She knew her son called his Father by his first name when she wasn’t around. There was another pause and then Rick asked, “Did you really not remember him? I mean, why did it take so long for you to decide to go find him?”
“If you thought someone had a good life, Rick, a quiet life that wasn’t this, would you be in a hurry to change it?” Sookie knew Hunter was more than grateful. He’d told both her and Eric that finding him and bringing him in had likely saved his life. It reminded her of how excited she’d been in those first days after meeting Bill Compton, her first vampire. She understood how this all looked, but she also remembered how those looks had deceived. “I don’t need to tell you how this life has its own set of challenges,” and Sookie glanced at Rick, “but everything’s turned out okay, for now. Your cousin seems happy.”
“He is,” Rick confirmed.
“And I’m happy to have him near. I remember Hunter when he was a little boy. He was struggling with his telepathy, but he learned fast and I thought his Father had a handle on it.” Sookie shrugged. “I learned to shield once I got old enough and, of course, once I met vampires, I learned to use my telepathy, too.” She sighed, “I’m glad you didn’t come into your gifts until you were older. It was so hard for Hunter, for me, being a small child and not being able to understand what was happening, what voices were yours, and which belonged to other people.”
“Me, too,” Rick nodded, and he slipped his arm around his Mom, and suddenly they were hugging. Sookie felt the prick of tears, this moment so unexpected and, at the same time, so welcome.
“I missed you,” she whispered.
“I miss you, too,” Rick answered, but what Sookie thought he was saying was more.
“I am so sorry,” Sookie found herself saying.
“For what?” Rick asked.
“For this,” Sookie looked around. “For everything. I never should have let you go back to Chester alone.”
“What were you going to do?” Rick asked. “You couldn’t leave here, not really. And what would Eric…I mean, Dad. What would Dad have done? He couldn’t follow you.”
“I know,” Sookie sniffed. “I won’t tell you I’m not happy here. I am. I’m happy with your Father,” and she squeezed Rick, letting him know she’d caught his lapse. “Really happy. I just feel I’ve let you down.”
“You haven’t,” Rick assured her. “I won’t tell you it was always easy, but whose life is?” He kissed her cheek, and for a minute he could pretend she was still warm under his lips. “I’m happy,” he assured her. “Hey, what’s not to be happy about? I’m attending one of the best colleges in the world loan-free, I have a family who loves me, and I’m a part-time Prince. What’s better than that?”
“Maybe playing music with Peter, being a nobody from nowhere,” Sookie teased.
“That has its moments,” Rick grinned, “but the beauty of it is I can go back to Chester any time and be that, too.” It was true. To the people he’d grown up with, Rick would always be Rick Hale, and with Chester’s tradition of protecting its own regardless of their notoriety, that wouldn’t change. “Yeah, all things considered, I’m a pretty lucky guy,” and he kissed Sookie again. There was a noise downstairs. “We should probably go in,” Rick told her. “It’s getting close to midnight.”
It was Christmas Eve. Once Sookie was turned their tradition of gift-giving shifted from Christmas morning to Christmas Eve. The first few years seemed awkward, but Pam remembered the holiday and embraced it. She eased the way for the rest of them. “Are you going to call that girl of yours later?” Sookie asked.
Rick’s eyes opened and then they slid left as he said, “What girl?”
“You are the worst liar!” and Sookie poked her son’s side. “Didn’t you think I’d find out? Karin says she’s more than pretty. She said you and…Brigid?” When Rick just gawked, Sookie gave her son a warm smile, “Brigid is a beautiful name. Sarah Chandler told me everyone in Chester was talking about how the two of you lit up the Thursday dance. She said you looked wonderful together.”
Rick swallowed before saying, “She is pretty special.”
Encouraged, Sookie asked, “Well, where is she now? With her family?”
“No,” Rick answered quickly, “No, she’s in Italy. Her Grandmother arranges trips for her, interesting places to spend her holidays.”
“That sounds lonely, Rick.” The words were out of Sookie’s mouth before she even thought. “Next time, you should invite her to come here.”
Now, Rick did laugh and it carried the sound of bitterness. “Here? Really?” and he shook his head. “Yeah, I don’t think so, Mom. Maybe when I know her better.”
“You wouldn’t have to stay in the Palace,” Sookie stammered, and then she paused. It was an uncomfortable moment, but after a minute, Rick sniffed.
“Yeah, it’s okay,” and he hugged her again. “Maybe that would work.” Sookie’s heart hurt as she saw his forced smile, “Come on. I’m sure everyone’s waiting downstairs for us.”
Eager to have the harmony between them restored, Sookie linked her arm through Rick’s. “I hope you like your present,” she whispered.
“If it’s from you, you know I will,” Rick answered. These were the same words she’d given him every Christmas, and she’d shown him she meant it through every lop-sided ceramic vase and twig sculpture he proudly presented, and they laughed, knowing they were sharing the same memory.
The tree was set in the family room outside Sookie and Eric’s quarters. Over the past years Sookie made changes to the colors and furnishings, and the room felt almost homey. It was still a far cry from their living room in Chester or Aunt Fran’s library, but Rick had to admit, it was getting there. For a moment he even tried to imagine Brigid here, but then Pam entered, wiping her lip after feeding and the idea evaporated.
“Where’s Hunter?” Sookie asked.
“I don’t know,” Pam said a little too innocently. “Maybe he got tied up somewhere.”
Immediately, every eye in the room narrowed. “Pam, what did you do?” Eric asked.
“What makes you think I did something?” she asked, and they all knew. She’d manufactured a payback.
The pranks between Pam and Hunter had started almost the night he moved in. The young man filled her lotion with lube after she teased him. Pam retaliated by painting his soap with nail polish. It was like firing a starting gun. It wasn’t all at once, instead the escalation had been slow and steady. Hunter Velcro-d Pam’s sweaters together. Her payback was squirting toothpaste in all his shoes. When she wrapped his car in cling-wrap, Hunter fired back by papering every surface in her resting chamber with colored photos of her. “Anyone that self-absorbed should be happy,” he’d shrugged when people asked.
Pam had been furious. She didn’t like that he’d been so close when she’d been at her most vulnerable, and like all truths that hit too close, being called out stung. From that day forward, the Palace had held its collective breath waiting to see how Pam would even the score.
“Go check on your cousin,” Sookie hissed, pushing Rick, before turning on Pam. “Really? On Christmas?”
“What’s wrong with giving?” was Pam’s only response. She didn’t look in the least bit guilty.
Rick ran down the stairs to the third floor. Hunter’s rooms were down the hall from his own. The door wasn’t locked, which didn’t bode well. Sure enough, Rick found his cousin. Hunter was zip-tied to his bed with a piece of duct tape over his mouth. It wasn’t funny, still Rick found he was having trouble not laughing. Hunter was wearing a Groot t-shirt and someone (Pam) had written ‘Sky Lord’ on the tape covering his lips.
“Just a minute,” Rick stuttered, finding Hunter’s pocket knife on the dresser.
The minute he had one hand freed, Hunter pulled the tape from his lips. “That bitch!” he snarled.
“Yeah, she thinks she’s funny,” Rick agreed, “but you did play with her. She’s a vampire! She steps over the line all the time, because she forgets what it is to be human.”
Hunter limped quickly to the bathroom and he was in there a long time. When he came out, Rick noticed the red grooves at his cousin’s wrists. To have done that kind of damage, Hunter must have been fighting to get loose for a while. “You know you won’t be able to retaliate, right?” Rick said quickly.
“Well, I’m not going to let this go by!” Hunter spit out.
“Let Eric handle it.” Rick sat down on the bed. “He’ll read her the riot act and punish her. If you try to get your whacks in this will only get worse. Believe me, I’ve tried to best her and there’s no contest. She doesn’t breathe, she doesn’t really feel pain, and she can regrow parts. Think about it.”
There was a noise at the door and Sookie stepped in. “Oh, good grief!” she exclaimed. She took one of Hunter’s hands in hers and turned it so she could examine his raw wrist. “Oh, I am so sorry! Does it hurt? Would you like me to heal it?”
“It’s okay, Aunt Sookie,” Hunter stammered. “Look, why don’t you give me a couple minutes? I’ll grab a shower and change. It’s Christmas, right? I’m not going to mess with that. I’m fine! It won’t take but a minute.”
“You’re sure?” she asked, and when he waved at the door, Sookie murmured, “Thank you,” and pulled Hunter so she could kiss his cheek. “Your first Christmas with us! I am so…”
“It’s okay,” and Hunter grinned again. “Guess it’s the kind of thing family does, right, playing tricks?”
“This family at least,” Rick shrugged.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to…” Sookie started again.
“Nope, I got this,” Hunter assured her.
Watching his Mother leave, Rick whistled. “Someone’s going to get a smack down!”
“I hope she can’t sit for a week,” Hunter growled, and then asked, “What are we wearing?”
“Jeans,” and Rick gestured at himself. “Pretty informal. Really, you want me to smear a little blood on those? They look painful.”
“They don’t hurt much,” and Hunter headed for the bathroom. “Besides, if this is going to cause Pam trouble, I want everyone to see them for a while.”
“Payback’s a bitch,” Rick laughed. “I’ll see you upstairs,” and left once he heard the shower running.
The atmosphere upstairs was exactly as he’d predicted. His Mom was bristling, her arms crossed and her head up in what Rick recognized as fighting mode. Eric was leaning slightly over Pam and Pam did look repentant. “It won’t happen again,” she said. Her eyes flicked toward Rick, “Besides, he’s not really injured, is he?”
“Those chafe marks look pretty deep,” and Rick shrugged. There were times he liked Pam, but there were times like these when Rick wasn’t so sure. Pam could be like some half-domesticated animal and Rick had learned through experience that giving his half-sister an inch was giving her a mile. There were times Rick wondered if it was the vampire in her.
Eric’s eyes narrowed and Rick swore they glittered. His Sire leaned forward a bit more and Pam actually cowered. Rick couldn’t help throwing Pam a rope. “Hunter did say they weren’t bad enough to need healing.”
“On Christmas!” Sookie hissed, and then she lowered her arms. “Really, Pam!” and the moment was over.
Pam slunk, there was no other word for it, from the corner where Eric had her backed up to a chair nearer the tree. When Hunter stepped into the room, she was the first up. “Sorry,” she stammered. “I went too far. Are you okay?”
“You’re right,” Hunter said stiffly. “You did go too far,” but then he gave her a grin, “but it’s Christmas, the season of forgiveness.” The grin became a smile and Hunter opened his arms. It was elegantly done. Pam didn’t like hugging, but under the circumstances, she had no choice, and so she hugged Hunter back and peace was restored.
For Hunter there was a gift certificate to the men’s wear story in town he liked, for Pam, the new bag from Italy she’d admired. Sookie received earrings shaped like Calla lilies from Eric that made her bite her lip. The way she stammered made Rick think there was some joke behind them. He received a new ceramic cup and an e-reader from his Mom and gift cards from Pam, but it was the gift from his Father that took him by surprise. “Wood working tools!” They were beautiful, each sharp and well fitted with their handles resting in pockets of soft leather.
“You seem to enjoy working with your hands,” Eric explained.
“I do,” and Rick’s fingers caressed the chisels and awls. “Thank you,” and for the first time in a long time, Rick found himself looking at the vampire as more than his Mother’s husband.
Sookie watched her son’s reaction to the gift. Eric was offering to show Rick how to use them. It surprised her. She’d never seen Eric work with his hands, but ‘Viking’ sang in the back of her head. Who knew what skills he’d learned as a young man, and it made her resolve to learn more about her old, talented husband.
“There’s one here for you, Aunt Sookie,” Hunter was saying. He handed her a box wrapped in fussy, old paper.
“Fran,” she smiled. The paper had probably been in the brownstone forever. Fran never threw anything away that she thought might be of use. Sookie’s fingers slid under the taped edge and she took her time. How many more Christmases would she have the pleasure of opening a gift from her friend? Sookie thought of the beautiful soft wool wrap she’d sent to Boston, promising herself she’d call Fran tomorrow at first dark to share holiday greetings and memories. Lifting the lid, she couldn’t help herself. “Oh!” There, nestled in soft tissue, was another of Fran’s first editions.
“What did she send?” Eric asked.
“It’s her Pride and Prejudice.” Sookie told him. She felt tears threaten but pulled herself together. This was the third time she’d received a first edition from Fran. The first had been Wuthering Heights. Each time it felt as though her mentor was peeling off another piece of herself, sending it to Sookie for safe keeping, readying herself for the journey that would take her away from all she knew.
Sookie took a deep breath and looked away. She resolved not to let her emotions tint this evening with any sadness. She knew Fran wouldn’t want that.
“She feels her years,” Eric said, stating Sookie’s thoughts aloud. When Sookie didn’t reply, he added, “She might change her mind.”
Sookie knew he was talking about turning. “No,” she said and then took in a breath to steady herself. “You know she won’t. She’s at peace with this and I respect that.” Across the room, Rick had returned to the tools, examining each one. “Your gift was a hit. How’d you know?”
“Our son has many talents,” Eric answered. “He enjoys making things. It helps him feel his place in his world.”
“He is so special!” Sookie sighed. “He is all the best of both of us. I just know he is going to do wonderful things.”
“Like his Mother,” and Eric leaned down to kiss her hair. “Jag älskar dig, min hustru,” he told her.
“I love you, too,” Sookie assured him. She looked around the room at the smiling faces. Hunter was poking Pam with a giant crawdad he’d received, and the smaller vampire was laughing. It wasn’t the family she’d ever imagined growing up in Bon Temps, but it was family all the same.
Sookie lay beside him, her rising approaching. Their bond allowed Eric to sense her coming. It wasn’t the intimacy of a Maker’s bond. Not for the first time, Eric thought of what it would have been like, being Sookie’s Maker. He remembered the immediacy of his tie with both Pam and Karin. At the beginning they had fancied themselves in love with him. It had worn off. Eric had been attached to both, loved them, loved them still, but at no point had he ever been in love with them. Many years ago, he promised Sookie he wouldn’t turn her, but there were moments like this one when he regretted that promise.
Thumbing his password, Eric opened his email on his phone. There was a new message from Tania, the New England Queen. She was looking for confirmation that the arrangement about Rick would be renewed for the upcoming year.
Now that Rick’s identity was known, formalities and protocol had to be observed. There was money involved, of course. Tania demanded extra since part of the agreement included warning vampires to avoid his progeny. Eric felt that was safest. Vampires could sense something different about Rick, and it made them instinctively uncomfortable. Rick’s ability to track vampires was a dhampir trait. Vampires wouldn’t know what it was, but it brought out aggressive behavior in those who didn’t know Rick Northman.
Rick had described to Eric how his gift worked. He said it was like seeing lights moving on a great grid in his head. Eric knew it was fool proof and surprisingly precise. All things considered, it was better keeping vampires away from his son. There were fewer questions, and less opportunity for an unfortunate accident. Eric had a reputation of being protective of his progeny. Tania let her vassals know that Eric’s attitude toward his biological son bordered on paranoid and that the Louisiana King was prone to punish first and ask questions later. So far, the story had done the trick.
Of course, the New England Queen wasn’t satisfied with just money. Tania also demanded Eric share the findings of his spies. She didn’t demand identities or locations, instead she was satisfied with interesting information. When the quality and quantity didn’t meet her expectations, Tania complained, which was what she was doing tonight.
Eric keyed in his response, promising her more would be coming. He had recently relocated his woman in New Mexico to Alabama. Sybil, the Alabama Queen, was vain and foolish but her kingdom lay to the other side of Russell Edgington’s. Thalia and Indira had yet to discover what Mississippi was doing, but all the signs of mischief were there. Eric had placed another spy in the Carolinas. He was sure any tidbit he picked up in that Kingdom would be of interest since Carolinas was in Tania’s Clan.
Scrolling further, Eric saw a message from Rasul. He found his lip quirking. Re-opening the monastery had triggered a host of memories and stories between himself and Sookie, including the adventures they’d shared with Rasul.
It had been Rasul who helped rescue Sookie when she was abducted by Debbie Pelt’s relatives. Eric glanced again at his mate. He remembered the jealousy he’d felt every time Sookie looked at the dark vampire. Rasul had known and teased Eric for it. That had been before the take-over, before Felipe de Castro.
Eric recalled his relief when he heard Felipe sent Rasul north to Michigan rather than end him. It was unsaid, but everyone knew Rasul had traded for his life by offering to serve as a spy for De Castro. Now, De Castro was gone. Rasul had contacted Eric shortly after the Viking’s own takeover, offering congratulations. It was a thinly veiled offer to continue spying, but Eric hadn’t replied beyond acknowledging his former friend’s well wishes.
That was four years ago. Rasul remained in Michigan. Since Rasul was technically free, Eric assumed the area suited him. His former friend’s message contained little beyond best wishes for the holiday and an observation about the Krewe of Krampus parade. Rasul sent an image that showed a regal Sookie sitting upon the throne, Eric looking like a tawny lion leaning against her. It was a slightly different angle than the news channels carried, and it gave Eric pause. He wondered who had taken the photo, figuring this was Rasul’s way of warning he had spies in his own kingdom as well. Eric didn’t need the warning. He knew.
On impulse, Eric replied, asking Rasul if he’d consider taking a trip to New Orleans. It was spur of the moment, and Eric would seek input from Sookie and Thalia, but it occurred to him that Rasul might do well as Sheriff of Area 4. He didn’t recall any time that Rasul met Stan, but it didn’t mean it hadn’t ever happened. Stan had visited Sophie-Ann when she was Queen here, and Rasul had been a guard in the Palace. It was likely the two had crossed paths.
Eric hit send and set his phone down. Sookie was close, and as he rolled to face her, his mate’s eyes opened. “Did you dream?” he asked.
“I was floating,” she answered. “I was adrift in the ocean. I couldn’t see anyone or anything. I was alone, but I wasn’t afraid.”
“Perhaps you were dreaming about your desire to bathe with me,” Eric purred, drawing a curl across her breast.
“Feeding first,” and Sookie grinned before glancing toward her phone. “Have you heard from Rick?”
“Earlier,” Eric nodded. “He will return tomorrow while we rest.” Rick had left to spend a few days with the Hermosas. With their schedules and Hunter leaving for a job in Texas, sending Rick somewhere he’d have company during the day seemed a good idea. Sookie had received photos from him last night showing their son standing in a boat with George and his younger brother, Frank, holding up bass. Rick also sent photos from Fangtasia and there was a single shot of Sookie’s house on Hummingbird Lane.
The house now belonged to his mate again. Eric repaid Pam the cost of its purchase, and his daughter happily transferred ownership.
Sookie knew all about Pam’s buying the house, and she knew she was now the owner again. Eric thought that now it was hers, she’d want to visit, but Sookie didn’t. She hadn’t said anything directly, she just didn’t say anything at all. Eric found it odd. Sookie grew up in that house. It was tied to her days as a human, and her Gran was buried nearby. When Sookie lived there in their time before, Eric had almost seen her as a part of that land. She was so connected, Eric didn’t question her unwillingness to leave it to live with him as his wife.
Of course, in the end she had left. She’d run north when he left for Oklahoma, carrying their son within her. He wondered if she no longer felt her connection to the place or if her reluctance was because now her memories of the house were inextricably tied to what happened the night of her turning.
Eric thought of the house and its surroundings, and he couldn’t help feeling some small satisfaction. Bill Compton’s house was no more. The Bellefleurs had protested, claiming as Bill’s heirs the house belonged to them, but Eric hadn’t hesitated. The old Compton house was knocked down and the cellar hole filled. Grass grew there now, and the trees were starting to crowd in. It was as if the house and Bill Compton had never existed.
“I’m thinking maybe it’s time to go back,” Sookie said quietly.
For a moment, Eric wondered if Sookie was reading his mind, but decided she must be talking about her decision to visit Boston, taking Rick back to school. “You are going back,” he replied. He slid off the bed and purposely leaned over, giving his mate a view of what she still called his world-class ass. It was something that generally distracted her, and he grinned as he saw her eyes fix where he intended. “Surely you haven’t forgotten. The arrangements are made, Älskade. You and Rick have an Anubis flight back to Boston next week.”
“Funny, Northman! Like I can forget anything. No, I meant Bon Temps,” Sookie clarified.
She was unsettled just saying the name. He could feel it. “Do you want me to call?” he asked. “It’s early but a donor can be in your room by the time you get downstairs.”
“No,” and Sookie got off the bed, tossing things around until she found her robe. She was magnificent, but she still resisted walking around naked. “I meant it. I’m done with special treatment. I’ll feed downstairs like everyone else.”
“As you wish,” Eric shrugged before fixing her with a direct look. “We feed, Lover, and then I get to spend the next few hours entertaining us.”
“I thought we had Assizes tonight,” Sookie frowned.
“We do, but not until past midnight. There are more cases than usual,” and he gave her his ‘interested’ look. “You will want to make sure you’re relaxed. Your judgment is always better when you’re relaxed.”
He knew if she’d still been human, his Sookie would have blushed. He missed that about her, but his memory supplied the details. She started moving and he reached for the door. That’s when the pants hit him. Turning, he found his mate staring, her arms crossed over her chest and her chin lifted high. “Put them on, Buster!” she demanded, and when he didn’t move, she pointed at his Gracious Plenty. “Mine!” she scolded.
She looked like a small kitten, scowling and spitting. Eric couldn’t help laughing, but he put his pants on anyway. “Someday, you’ll realize our scent signatures are just as effective as clothing,” he teased. “Every vampire and Were here knows I’m yours.”
“Well then, just call me greedy,” Sookie snapped, “but I know what all that looks like,” and running her eyes over him, she added, “and I’m not sharing any part of it!”
Eric liked these nights. Sookie fed quickly and she initiated, pushing him back against the elevator door on their way back upstairs. She nipped at his chest and rubbed herself against him. On a whim, Eric whisked them up the stairs to the rooftop. There were chairs here and cushions spread under a pergola. Even with the whine of city traffic, here, under the stars, they could almost pretend they were someplace else.
She was wet and she wasn’t hiding her need. Eric reclined, his erection standing proudly from its nest of curls. “Ride me, my Valkyrie,” he demanded, extending his hand. Sookie leaned forward, almost taking his hand, but then she gave him a small smile and stepped back.
It seemed she’d decided to tease him first and his fangs dropped in anticipation. Sookie took her time, letting the robe slide, drifting her hands to follow its course. She paused to pinch her nipples, letting her mouth fall open. She dipped her hands lower, the robe sliding and gathering. The slight curve where her waist nipped in above the flare of her hips was one of Eric’s favorite places, and Sookie knew it. She purposely revealed and hid, all the while watching him.
He felt himself growing harder, watching her slow striptease, stroking himself while imagining it was her hand. “Play with yourself,” he growled. “Open your legs so I can see you.”
His Sookie was full-on vixen now. Her eyes tilted and her mouth was knowing. She let her robe fall and she moved her feet farther apart. With one hand she parted herself, using the other to dip and tease. Her head fell back just a little and she bit her lower lip. “Please,” she breathed after a moment.
Her nipples were standing at attention. She wasn’t hiding her need. Her donor had been handsome, and the slight jealousy Eric experienced added salt. “You should be ready for me, Lover,” he teased. “You started this game, and I find I have no interest in being gentle. You had better be very wet. Perhaps it would help if you laid down? I want to see you cum before I enter you.”
“You know I cum faster when you help,” Sookie sighed.
“And I told you we have hours before Assizes,” Eric grinned. “Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for.”
It was pleasurable watching her. She started to close her eyes and he scolded her. Still, his Sookie didn’t play fair. She bombarded him with memories, seeking to strip his control. “I don’t think you are paying proper attention, my Sookie,” he said after one particularly strong wave of lust found him. “Perhaps you would do better if your mouth was engaged.”
Sookie didn’t hesitate. She rolled over and took him into her wet mouth. He felt the slide of her fangs over his head. It almost made up for her lack of warmth. Sookie’s fingers remained between her lower lips and her scent intensified as she moved over and around him.
Eric pushed her hair out of the way so he could watch her. He ran his eyes over her form, enjoying the sight of her on her knees, balanced over him. It didn’t matter how often he saw her naked, Sookie was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Taking her chin, he lifted her. She started forward to cover him but he stopped her. Instead, he pushed her to her back again, moving her hands to replace her fingers with his tongue. Her cry was almost desperate. He played her, gauging how close she was, and then pulling back. He did it again and she cursed, grabbing his hair, trying to force him. He chuckled, giving her what she wanted, just not enough to tumble her over.
“This isn’t relaxing me!” she hissed, and Eric lifted his head.
“Oh, well, I can stop,” he teased.
He’d pushed a little too far. He could feel it in her quick stab of irritation. Sookie rolled away from him, reaching for the small drawer of the small table. “Really?” he asked as she pulled out her rabbit vibrator.
“I don’t know what’s got into you tonight,” Sookie snapped, “But I need to get the edge off.”
“I apologize,” he conceded, and reaching out, took the device from her hand. “Here, let me.”
It didn’t take long. He sucked then nipped first one breast and then the other, all the while pressing the device against her clit. As Sookie started to arch, he slid the phallus into her, and turned up the vibration. She tensed before becoming wild under his hands. She arched off the floor and he matched her movements, drinking in the sight of her as her orgasm took her. He squeezed her nipple, giving that slight pain that enhanced the pleasure she was experiencing. When she started to recover, he asked, “Which hole?”
“Both,” she breathed, and Eric flicked the switch on the vibrator again.
It was nearing three by the time Assizes were finished. Thalia had stood nearby, keeping the order. She would leave tomorrow for Area 5. Rubio sent reports that there had been several new incidents. A vampire business was fire-bombed and two vampires were captured in silver and beaten. These things happened, but Indira reported something similar.
‘It was a local religious group,’ Rubio reported, ‘but they were well-funded. Our friends tell me this was no more than a fringe group, but they’ve found a new hatred for vampires and it looks to be spilling over to all Supernaturals.’
Eric kept his distance. He didn’t wish Rubio to think he was interfering, but he was sorely tempted to contact his old friend, Mustapha Khan, to get another opinion.
“You don’t really think there’s bad trouble up there, do you? I mean, Rick’s up there!” Eric could feel Sookie’s worry.
“Nothing that can’t be contained,” Eric assured her. “Thalia will offer her help, and she’ll bring Rick home.” His mate’s immediate relief confirmed what he’d suspected. Sookie did well tonight, urging compassion when it was politically expedient, and supporting harsher sentences when it wasn’t. His Sookie had developed a real feel for ruling, but all that went by the wayside when it came to their son.
“I can’t explain it,” Sookie sighed. “It’s been a wonderful visit, but somehow, I’ll be happier when he’s back in school.”
“You are getting used to a life where our son is a visitor,” and Eric gathered her against him. “I have said it before…”
“Yes,” Sookie interrupted, “I know. He’s a man and ready to lead his own life, but he really isn’t that old. He’s only nineteen.”
“By which time I was married…” Eric started to explain, but Sookie interrupted him again.
“And had children, I get it!” She huffed, but then caught herself. “I’m sorry, Eric. I know that was your experience, but I believe things are different now. I don’t think children grow up that fast anymore. They don’t need to.”
This blind spot rankled. “You don’t see it because you choose not to,” he growled. “Even among humans, Rick is unique. He has been independent for a long time. He fights with you because he senses his need to lead his own life away from his mother’s arms.”
“They’re growing pains!” Sookie exclaimed, pushing away from him. “He’s going through what they all go through! Sure, he’s fractious, but he’ll grown out of it, I know it, and when he does, he’ll suddenly remember that we know things, too.” She set her jaw in that line he knew so well. He saw it in Rick as well, that thick streak of stubbornness he thought of as Stackhouse.
“I was right about the tools,” Eric said, offering an olive branch. In the nights immediately following Christmas, Eric spent time showing Rick how to use the hand tools he’d given him. Together, they’d started work on a piece of driftwood, shaping it to form the base for a table. It had been a satisfying experience, Eric rising each night to find his son making progress.
“I didn’t know that about you,” Sookie replied, letting their fight slip away. “When did you learn to shape wood?”
“My Fader taught me,” he told her, and then, gathering her back against him, he told her more.