Eric laid his hand on the travel coffin resting on trestles in the throne room. Arrangements had been confirmed. In the early afternoon during his daytime rest, representatives of Annubis Air would arrive. They would be picking him up and transporting him to their hangar and facility at the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. There had been some discussion about his destination point but in the end the decision had been made to use Bradley International in Windsor Locks, CT. The King of New York had reminded Eric that he was still owed a visit, but Eric was concerned. Since the television appearances he had found his steps dogged by papparazzi. While this type of attention helped the kingdom it would create problems for his current mission. The last thing he wished was to have the attention of any non-supernatural turned toward Sanctum and its guests.
Karin had asked to travel with him but he denied her request. While the business of the kingdom was going well this would be his first time leaving the territory. It was these firsts that were always the most dangerous. If there were traitors in his midst this would be their opportunity to create trouble. Sandy would be here for some time but Eric did not have confidence that she commanded the proper respect. Karin, on the other hand had already struck fear in the hearts of vampires and weres alike. He found himself smiling as he thought of the way those in the hallways would look anywhere to avoid making eye contact with her as she walked by. It marked her as alpha in the palace and that suited Eric fine.
He stared out the windowed doors toward the horizon that was only now starting to show the hint of dawn. He thought again about his mission. His phone buzzed. He glanced at it. It was a text from Felipe asking him to report as soon as he landed. He acknowledged and dropped the phone back in his pocket.
Karin approached him. “I have heard from Connecticut. They are anticipating your arrival. A car will be waiting along with a van to transport the coffin. They have a house in Kent which is only a few towns from Sanctum. You will arrive in plenty of time to settle in. They are interested in renewing acquaintances. I have informed them that you prefer an AB donor if available.” Karin waited for Eric to acknowledge her report with a nod and then waited. Eric could sense her tension. He was sure that she could appreciate his own.
As the hour approached he found himself increasingly uneasy. He could not foresee any scenario that would have Sookie Stackhouse happy to see him. She had rejected him with such finality. He would never forget the sight of her crouching over the shifter throwing away their one chance; throwing him away.
Eric suspected that the purpose of being summoned to Sanctum was to provide Sookie ‘closure.’ Pam had told him about this. It was a technique that allowed humans to move forward after some unsettling personal event. Pam had started recording episodes of Dr. Phil and she was even keener about the advice provided by this human than she had been about Dear Abby. This doctor seemed to advocate confronting issues face to face. Eric could see himself being asked to stand before her while Sookie recounted every way he had failed her. He found himself missing the pre-Revelation days when you could solve your personal issues with a stake and silver. This current way seemed crueler.
“Master?” Karin called him back from his thoughts. “Are you sure of your purpose in this visit?” Then Karin stared at him. He could feel her tension ratcheting so he purposely calmed himself and pushed it toward her.
“I am. I have a message to deliver and I will do as I have promised.” Eric smiled briefly, and then turned his head back to the window. “Shouldn’t you be seeking your rest?”
Karin smiled briefly as well. She had felt his turmoil for hours. As each hour passed it had increased. She wasn’t fooled by the sudden wash of calm. “Eric, I question the reason for your mission. It is unlikely that Sookie will be willing to return to Louisiana. Her home is gone. If she were willing to return because of you, you are in Oklahoma and not Louisiana. I worry that this favor was asked purposely as an excuse for you to fail.”
Eric nodded. He had considered this possibility. “Karin, if I don’t do this Felipe will have leave to punish me and mine. He wouldn’t touch you, but he could hurt Pam.”
Karin looked at him, her gaze sharpening. “Master, consider. You are in the public eye. Pam is in the public eye. If you remain before humans on the televisions and in their magazines, how does Felipe explain your disappearance or your injuries?”
Eric realized he had not considered this. The habits of remaining hidden ran deep. What Karin was suggesting was novel. They might be able to seek their protection by running towards the public light instead of away from it. Eric started to turn this over as a possible option and found the idea had merit.
Eric smiled now in earnest. “Karin you present a most intriguing idea. But you must go now. I feel the pull of day. I am sure that you feel it more keenly than I. I will text you when I arrive.”
Karin bowed her head. Without rising from her position she said, “Master, be kind to her. There were none after you who were.” Before Eric could react to his fierce child’s words she straightened, turned and was gone.
Eric walked from the plane. The sun had set during flight and he had moved from the storage area in the back of the plane to the seats up front. He was the only passenger. He realized this was the first time he had been alone since he left Louisiana. His time in Oklahoma had been continuously monitored. When he wasn’t resting he was aware of eyes on him, even in his private chambers.
Eric stared out the airplane window as the lights of Hartford passed below him. Soon. Soon he would see her again.
There was a driver awaiting him. The Annubis crew made quick work of transferring both luggage and coffin and within 15 minutes Eric was on his way to the western part of the state.
“Roads are clear all the way, sir,” the were driver informed him. Eric settled back and relaxed into downtime.
It took almost an hour to reach Kent. The small town was nestled around a central hub. Eric noticed the bright lights and quaint storefronts. The driver brought him to a lovely historic saltbox house. As Eric exited the vehicle the door was opened from inside. The light poured out and a lovely woman bowed. “Welcome Mr. Northman. My king bids you greetings. If you follow me I will show you to your chamber.” The light tight room was located on the second floor. The furnishings were dark wood and the room had a fireplace. The shutters appeared to be on an automated timer. The woman stood at the open door awaiting his approval. When he nodded she said, “I can send up a donor whenever you’re ready.”
Eric looked around him once more. “No need. I will return later.” He knew that he wasn’t expected at Sanctum until tomorrow but he suddenly knew he couldn’t wait. Eric walked back down the stairs and then out the door. He looked to the sky and launched himself upwards.
Sookie walked into the sun room that was located in the back of the main house. The large windows opened onto a stone patio surrounded by rounded stone walls. One of her favorite features in the room was an aviary that had been built into a corner. There was a soft chair positioned nearby that allowed the telepath to watch the little birds flit from branch to branch.
Today had been a good day. There were many good days now. When she thought of those times; of The Time, it was with a mixture of regret and determination. She felt regret that she had not had the belief in herself to walk away. She couldn’t reconcile the woman her Gran had raised with the person that had permitted another to have such control. She knew that on some level she had been grieving for her grandmother. Certainly the anguish she had felt had found its mate in the too frequent physical pain she had endured.
Sookie could see her Gran now as a woman willing to make hard decisions to create a happy life. Her Gran had wanted children. She had approached her husband and they had taken the less easy path. Her Gran could have pushed Sookie and Jason toward their Aunt Linda’s house when their parents died. It would have been easier for her. But she didn’t. She opened her home and worked harder to make them comfortable. She remembered her Gran meeting her own brother Bartlett on the front porch, a loaded shotgun in hand. Sookie had thought that her Gran would have pulled the trigger if it hadn’t meant going to jail and leaving Sookie and Jason alone. Sookie remembered feeling so safe and grateful. She never doubted she had her Gran’s love and support. She never doubted that her Gran knew how to fight for what was hers.
When Sookie had fought Rene Lanier she had wondered if that act of violence made her less Christian. When she had killed Lorena Ball she remembered a moment when she felt that the she was on a path of darkness.
Was killing those who would harm you and yours a justified act? There were no easy answers. There were still days that Sookie felt some measure of guilt for the lives she had taken. She remembered the fierce look on her Gran’s face as she told her own brother that if he ever returned she would shoot him on sight.
Sookie would never choose to kill another creature but she knew that being strong enough to defend those you loved, even if it meant killing, was something she could and would do again. What’s more, she knew that it was something her Gran would do if she was still there. That knowing had helped her to turn a corner.
Sookie was a different person now. She knew in her heart she was strong. She would never again permit someone to have the kind of dominion that she had given Sam. She thought of Lydia’s words when she had described the telepath’s life. When Sookie had first arrived Lydia had asked her if she thought of herself as a warrior. Sookie had said ‘No.’
Now when she looked in the mirror and saw the light of fire in her eyes she found herself thinking of Pam and Karin. She remembered that day that she had met Karin and realized that each of them was blond and blue eyed. She had been angered by the thought that Eric chose them for their matched looks. But now Sookie knew that the resemblance that mattered was the steely determination that was at the core of each of them. Sookie no longer felt uncomfortable at the thought that she might have been counted as one of them; she felt pride.
Sookie had started thinking about her feelings of becoming vampire. She could not see herself giving up the light of day and the warmth of the sun. She watched out the window as this day started its end and the colors of sunset played out over the hills. Sookie found herself caught once again in the wonder and the majesty of the moment. The first of the stars was peeking through the darkening sky. She could see the brief shadow of a bird headed for the forest and shelter. Day and sun and air were a bone deep part of her. She understood it was the legacy of her Sky Fae bloodline. She could love vampires now and accept them but she could never be a creature of night.
Sookie turned her eyes back to the finches in the tall wire cage. She found herself wondering if the birds viewed themselves as captives. It was strange to consider that the birds in the cage might be better off than their wild cousins. Sookie found herself wondering if the birds ever missed the sun and the wind.
Her mind wandered to Eric Northman. She thought of all the times he had offered her safety and protection. She thought about how she chose her own freedom instead. She had wanted sun and wind and flying free but now she realized that her choices had come with a high price. The evening’s light was long gone as Sookie thought about how her choices had cost Eric as well. She thought about how she had refused to call him husband. She thought about how she treated his fears and concerns for her like they were foolish; like he was foolish. She wondered how such a strong, proud man had allowed it. He had stood back and defended her even when she treated him like he offered nothing; like he was nothing.
Sookie watched the birds and wished with all her heart that she could be one of them; happy behind wire. ‘Isn’t that the essence of love?’ she thought. ‘A safe place where the truth that is your life with another can grow?’
She stilled. Her breath caught in her throat and her mouth fell open. That voice, Eric’s voice was behind her. She’d heard it so many times over the past months speaking in her dreams and in her thoughts. She wondered if this was another of those times when she would talk with her Viking and he would tell her truths about herself. Sookie closed her eyes and held her breath.
She could hear something; someone moving. The sound was in front of her. She thought she could smell something; that familiar dry smell. She bit her lower lip and was suddenly afraid to open her eyes. Then she remembered she wouldn’t be afraid anymore. She could face anything and had.
So she opened her eyes and he was there. His face was right in front of her own. He looked exactly as she remembered him. His eyes, so blue and calm were looking right at her. His blond hair was pulled back from his face. She blinked one more time and then lifted her hand. She had to touch him; to prove that he was real.
Her fingertips traced his cheekbone. She allowed her eyes to follow the tracks her fingers made. She smoothed along his cheek, taking in the texture and slight chill of his skin; then the rough of a beard that never really grew; the firmness of his jaw. She brought her fingertips up to trace the bow of his upper lip and found herself smiling. She felt her heart beating like a bird, banging against her breast.
His hand came up to capture hers. Without breaking eye contact he turned her palm to his mouth and kissed it. Then he laid her hand against his cheek.
Keeping her eyes on his she slowly raised her other hand and glided her arm around him to pull him close. He shifted forward and then wrapped both his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. Sookie’s eyes closed again as she allowed a feeling of utter happiness to wash over her. She could feel the wool of his suit against her cheek. One of his large hands squeezed her to him while another found its way to cradle the back of her head. Her own arms wrapped around his waist. In that moment she knew such joy that the laughter bubbled from her lips and happy tears prickled her eyes.
Eric. Her Eric. He was really here.
She pushed back from him then. As she felt his arms fall from her Sookie saw a look pass over Eric’s face. It was the same look she had seen every time she had denied him. It was as though he was closing a door between her and what he was feeling. She could see now what she had done to him. She had set an expectation that it wasn’t safe for Eric to open himself to her.
Sookie knew that she never wanted Eric Northman; her Eric to ever doubt her again. For the first time in all their time together Sookie Stackhouse leaned in to claim what was hers.
Eric had landed outside the boundaries of the facility. He realized that there were wards that prevented him from remaining airborne. He could see the lights and before he even thought the better of it he was running towards them. He didn’t knock. He opened the door and walked in. He knew he was a day earlier than expected. He looked around the central hall. And he smelled her. That scent; that unmistakable sweet scent that was so uniquely hers. He found himself walking through the back hall and into an open space that had a wall of glass that looked into the darkness beyond. He turned his head and he saw her. She had her back to him. She looked so small in the chair. Her hair was pulled back in a single braid. He realized she had used the snake braid he had taught her. It touched him in a way that was unexpected.
He called her name. He could hear her breath catch but she didn’t turn to him. He said her name again and walked around until he was facing her. He saw then the sharpness of her cheekbones. Her chin was pointed instead of the roundness he remembered. There were hollows beneath eyes that were closed. She sat so still with her hands clasped in her lap; her mouth open in an ‘o’ of surprise.
He wanted to believe that he didn’t need this woman; that she was no longer a part of him. But he found himself falling to his knees before her. He saw the changes on her face. Her nose was no longer so straight. There was a scar on her upper lip. And then her eyes opened and he was captured. He knew the minute she lifted her hand and touched his face that any thought that he could separate himself from her was a lie that he was telling to himself.
Somewhere within him a voice was telling him to run; get away from this succubus. She would betray him and he would be destroyed this time. But he found himself helpless under her hands.
She brushed her lips against his. He watched her, his gaze guarded. His lips remained still beneath hers. Sookie refused to give up. She shifted her kiss to his upper lip kissing first the left and then the right side of his mouth. Then she kissed the dip and she smiled into his eyes. She lowered her mouth so that she could nip and pull at his lower lip with her teeth, teasing him. His mouth shifted and she took it as permission. She renewed her demands, dropping her hands to grasp his. She looked into his eyes, letting him see how much she wanted him. She shifted a little so that she could place feather kisses on first the plane of his right cheek and then his left. She rubbed her nose across his, allowing him to smell her; breathe in her breath. She pulled back from him again so she could look lovingly over the strong angles and surfaces of his face. She dropped his hands and raised her own to smooth the fine hair of his eyebrows with her thumbs. She brought her face forward so she could rub her cheek along his. She inhaled the fine scent of him; marking him with her own scent on his skin. She called his name softly; “Eric, Eric.” She nipped his earlobe and gently circled the outline of his inner ear with her tongue. She kissed the side of his neck and ran her teeth along the strong line of muscle that led to his shoulder. As she nibbled her way back toward his jaw he hissed.
His hands captured her head and he rotated her face so that he could bring his mouth down on hers. His lips were no longer motionless. His mouth pulled and demanded hers. When he opened his mouth she surged forward to plunge her tongue forward, challenging him. She changed angles and then slid her body forward from the chair, pressing herself against every part of him she could.
Sookie’s blood was roaring. As she devoured his mouth, her hands ran over the broad planes of his chest. She ran her fingers under his suit jacket and sought out his nipples through the material of his shirt. She found his hardened peaks and she rubbed and then scratched them with her nails feeling them tighten further under her fingers.
Eric’s hands dropped from cradling her face to run down her arms. His long fingers brushed the sides of her breasts and she moaned into his mouth. She grabbed his hands and placed them on her, squeezing them as she wished him to squeeze her. She broke the kiss and rubbed herself along his cheek again. She reached her arms under his jacket and pulled the back of his shirt from his pants. She needed the feel of his skin under her hands. She needed to feel all of him. She plunged both hands under the waistband of his pants to reach and hold his perfect ass.
Eric’s hands had found their way under her sweater. He pulled her bra cups down so that her breasts were freed to his touch. He pulled her nipples; tweaking and twisting as he recaptured her mouth.
Sookie stood up then, pulling away from him. He eyes followed her, his gaze dark and his fangs descended. She took his hand and pulled him to follow her. She had a moment when she wondered if he would. He had looked at her hand and then her eyes. Then his eyes had dropped back to her hand and he squeezed it and stood tall and then taller.
She turned and pulled him down the hall that led to her room. She looked back to see his eyes. She couldn’t stop smiling. He was watching her. She could see that he was troubled. She didn’t care. They would find their answers together.
Sookie pulled him through the door to her room and dropped his hand as she turned to engage the lock. As she turned back to Eric, Sookie had a moment when she felt suddenly shy and unsure. What would he think? Would he still find her attractive? But then she looked at him. This was Eric. This was hers and she found her courage and her strength and the deep reservoir of feeling that she had for this man.
She walked forward and ran her hand under the bottom of his suit jacket to cup and then squeeze the curve of his world class ass. As she walked forward to stand in front of him, she trailed her fingers under the edge of his waistband and then along his hip trailing down toward his gracious plenty. She tipped her chin up so that he could watch her eyes. She pulled the front of his shirt free of his pants. She grabbed his belt with one hand and ran the nails of her other hand under the fabric of his shirt. She allowed the blunt edges of her nails to lightly scratch the slight hairline near his navel and then ran her hand up his body. She used fingertips as she moved higher coming even with his chest . Then she pulled her hands back so she could begin to unbutton his shirt. She started at the top, kissing and nibbling each piece of skin as it was revealed. She could see his erection pressing against his pants. His eyes were stormy and his fangs were prominent in his slightly open mouth. But he made no move to touch her.
When his shirt hung open she moved forward and started placing open mouthed kisses against his skin. She used her teeth and tongue to taste and explore each muscle and indentation. And suddenly she couldn’t wait any more. She needed to feel him; to feel him on her. She jerked his jacket down his arms and then his shirt. Her hands couldn’t find enough of him. She reached for his belt and pulled to free the buckle. She had unclasped the top of his pants and had reached for his zipper when he roared.
There was nothing soft or forgiving in what passed between them. Sookie’s clothes were shredded and her back hit the bed in a motion that banged the headboard against the wall hard. In the past she may have clasped him to her, accepting what he offered. But that was then. Sookie found herself roaring in return. She flipped him over and captured his lips. She grasped him firmly in her hand, stroking him and lining him to her. Then she held his eyes as she took him within her, keeping her hand on him until he was fully seated. She squeezed him one last time then sat up, her head thrown back as she started the rocking motion that made him hers.
He grasped her head in his large hand. He turned her face so he could see her eyes. Although Eric didn’t need to breathe Sookie could see him drawing in air. She knew he could smell the scent of her arousal. She saw his eyes darken and take on a wild quality. He flipped them back over and he took both her hands in one of his, holding her wrists above her head. He drew back and then slammed into her. She gasped and he did it again. Sookie wrapped her legs around him. She met him thrust for thrust. She found her happy place within minutes. Eric didn’t stop. He pounded her through another orgasm and as she found her voice, begging and screaming and shouting his name he came within her. Without thinking she surged forward and bit into his chest. His back arched and then his mouth was at her neck. She could feel his fangs sink into her as his own powerful release flowed into her in wave after wave. He pumped slower then, and she felt herself clenching and squeezing around him as her own body slowed its celebration of their joining.
He released her hands and pulled back. She reached up to lay her palm to his cheek. He turned his head and captured the fingers of her hand, sucking them. She caressed his fangs. Then she pulled him to her. He pulled out of her then so he could rest his head on her chest and listen to the rhythms of her racing heart.
Their whole world seemed to be within the four corners of the canopy bed. They found themselves drifting after the first time in the languorous place of in between that only lovers find. Sookie stroked his hair while Eric absently stroked her breast.
“You’ve changed,” he said.
“Yes,” she answered.
He shifted then, lifting her easily and pulling down the blankets. He laid her back on the bed and crawled in beside her covering them both. He pulled her to his side and then turned her so her back faced him. He pulled apart her braid and unraveled her hair, smoothing it with his fingers to lie against her back and shoulders. When he was satisfied he turned her back around and he tucked her under his arm so her face could rest on his shoulder.
Without raising her head she asked, “Your wife is dead?”
Eric stilled. It troubled him to think she might not know. “Yes.”
“Oh,” said Sookie. She was quiet for a moment, then added “That’s good.”
Eric found a smile teasing around his lips. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “Yes. Very good.”
Sookie wet the tip of her finger with her mouth and then used it to paint Eric’s nipple. She blew across it and watched it peak. She looked up at him, grinning. Eric grinned back and then suddenly they were laughing.
Outside the door Lydia and Barbara exchanged looks.
“I thought he was killing her,” Barbara said.
Lydia nodded and exhaled the breath she didn’t know she was holding. “I expect it’s the Viking.” Then she smiled wryly. “I think you better get the light tight chambers ready. I suspect we have an overnight guest. I’ll write out a message and leave it under the door.”
Barbara grinned back. “I’ll check the blood supply. The famous Eric Northman!” She started to make lists in her head of what would be needed to accommodate their latest guest.