Sookie slipped from the bed to head to the bathroom. “Human needs,” she whispered. She found herself looking in the mirror as she washed her hands. Her hair was messy and her lips were swollen. She looked like a woman well-loved. She closed her eyes for a minute and whispered thanks to whatever deity might be listening for giving her this second chance.
As she came out the door she saw Eric. He was on his side and he lifted the blankets, inviting her in. She remembered that photo he had given her and she found herself grinning. Then something caught her eye. It was a piece of paper on the floor near the door. “Just a minute,” she said and winked. She turned off the bathroom light, walked toward where she had seen the paper and picked it up then made a beeline back to the bed.
Eric wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. He nuzzled her hair taking in the scents of her and the feel of her skin against his. “What is it?” he asked as he kissed his way along the line that her hair made along her forehead.
“Well, there’s no way I can read it in the dark, Eric!” She pushed against his chest to free herself a little. “Give me a minute and I’ll turn on the light.” She started to lean away from him but he pulled her in tighter while tugging the paper from her fingers.
“Allow me,” he said. She couldn’t see the smirk on his face but she sure knew it was there.
“Show off!” she told him and released the paper so that his hand jerked back a little. Eric rolled back from her and laughed. As her eyes readjusted to the dark she could see him raise his hand to scan the message.
“It seems you are too loud, lover. You alarmed our hosts and they are now aware that I am here.”
Sookie swatted his chest. “I’m loud? I’m not the one who roars and tosses furniture around!” And then Sookie laughed again and snuggled into his chest. “What does it say?” she asked.
Eric’s free hand stroked her hair. Sookie closed her eyes and wondered if she could make that curious purring sound that Eric did when he was content because it was sure how she felt. “It says that I am welcome to stay here. There are light tight quarters on premises and some directions on how to find them. I am expected to make myself available tomorrow evening. Or is it this evening?” Eric looked at the clock beside the bed.
Sookie stilled against him. “Will you stay?” Eric shifted beneath her.
“I am expected in Kent. They also have light tight quarters. It is only a short ways. Whether I stay there or here it is the same.”
Sookie propped herself up on her elbow so she could look at his face. She was able to see the definition better but wished she had his true night vision. “How can you say it’s the same? I want you here. I just got you back and I don’t want you going anywhere.”
Eric smiled. “So demanding. Of course I will stay with you as long as I can. But once I go to my rest it is immaterial whether I wake here or there.”
Sookie puzzled this for a minute. Then she knew. She had slept at Eric’s house in Shreveport occasionally. But they never went to sleep and woke up in the same space. She had had her own bedroom. She had told him she didn’t like being in his light tight space. She had told him it made her feel claustrophobic.
Sookie brought herself forward until she was close enough to his face to see his features more easily. Then with a boldness she didn’t know she had she reached down and took him in her hand. She could see the surprise register on Eric’s face. “Eric Northman I’m telling you that I want you to stay here. If it would make you more comfortable to move over to the new room now, we should just do it. But I am going to fall asleep in your arms and I’m going to wake up in your arms and I’m going to live every minute I can being with you.” Sookie leaned forward and captured his lips. Eric took her arms then and pulled her on top of him. He kissed her like a man on fire and she kissed him right back.
He pulled back to let her catch her breath. “You are sure?”
Sookie scowled at him. “Don’t you go doubting me!” she said. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.” She could see him smirk.
“So sassy. Well, if you mean to hold me prisoner then I should text my hosts so they don’t worry.” Eric picked her up and set her to his side before rolling over and standing up. Sookie moaned behind him. He turned and caught her eyes watching his butt so he turned back around and gave a little shake. He could see her from the corner of his eye crawling toward his side of the bed. He leaned down to retrieve his suit jacket and reached into the pocket for his phone. He shook the jacket out and laid it across one of the chairs then he retrieved his pants and shirt and did the same. He walked back to the bed where he could see her watching him, her eyes shining. She scrambled forward and raised the blankets for him as he had earlier for her.
Eric found himself overwhelmed with her. She acted as he had always wished; demanding what she wanted yet comforting in her touch. She did not pout or cry or whine or make him feel guilty or unwanted. He found himself wondering where the real Sookie had gone and when he could expect her back.
They settled back into the bed. Eric propped the pillows so he could sit against the headboard. Sookie snuggled into his side. Eric found the number of the Kent house and sent along a text that he would be staying as a guest of Sanctum. Then he returned the phone to the table.
“If I stay past rising I will need to see about having my clothes shifted. At the very least I will need a charger for my phone.” Then he put his arm around her and pulled her close.
Sookie started to stroke his abdomen, her fingers tracing the lines and shadows of ribs and hip; sinew and muscle. Eric waited for the questions that would follow. His telepath was always a good one for questions. But this Sookie, this new Sookie of sharp cheekbones and pointed hips didn’t ask questions. She reached for him and started to stroke him back to life. She turned her head back to his chest and rubbed against him like a cat, her hair trailing across him. His hands reached for her as every memory of her body; every sensation of her played across his mind’s eye.
She raised herself enough to kiss and stroke down the length of his body. She brought herself level with his cock and then drew him into her warm mouth. She used her hands and teeth as he had taught her. He sat up and grasped her around the waist, turning her so that he could pleasure her as well. He used his hands and tongue and teeth to draw whimpers and moans from her; whimpers and moans that vibrated around him. As he felt her walls begin to tighten around his fingers he turned and licked her thigh. He could smell a subtle difference in her essence. She smelled even more alluring than he remembered. He bit into her artery and felt her clench around his hand in the same moment. She became wild around him, bobbing and moaning and he came as well. She collapsed on top of him, still holding him in her mouth and stroking him with her hand. He could have stayed there forever.
Sookie nosed the crease where his hip met his leg. She licked it and then turned herself to crawl back up and under his arm. She remembered something Eric used to say. He would tell her ‘This is right. This is best.’ She knew what he meant.
Eric shifted to sprawl with his legs a little wider and Sookie took him back in her hand. She couldn’t seem to get enough of him. She settled herself in the crook of his arm. She loosed him to take his hand and place it back on her breast. She threw her leg across his and then lowered her hand to grasp him again.
When she felt her heart rate fall back to a more normal rhythm she said, “So, are you going to turn me over the Felipe de Castro?”
Eric twitched and then stilled. Of all the questions he thought might come this one was unexpected. “Why would you think that?” he asked. He was suddenly very aware that she had him in her hand.
“Pam and Lydia talked. Why? Was your mission some big secret?”
Eric shifted a little then, and wrapped his arm around the back of her head so he could massage her scalp. He pulled her up toward him and kissed the top of her head. “No. I was waiting for you to stop molesting me so that we could talk.”
Sookie smiled more broadly and removed her hand, placing it just below his chest. “There. Now I’m not distracting you. Spill it, Eric.”
Eric sighed. Sookie knew that it wasn’t necessary but allowed him a moment to gather his thoughts. “This is not what I expected when I came here my lover.”
Sookie nodded. “Yup. I could see that. So, what did you expect?”
Eric stared toward the ceiling. “I thought you would be angry with me still.” Eric could feel through the blood exchange they had made earlier that she was feeling anything but angry. “I thought I would have to stand before you and have you tell me how I had wronged you. Pam called it closure.”
Sookie rolled to her stomach and propped herself up on her elbows so she could look directly at his face. “Why would you think I would be angry at you?”
Eric glanced at her then back to the ceiling. “Oh, so many things. That I told you I wished to turn you. That you knew I had thought about bringing you to Oklahoma so that I could see you. Trying to block the shifter.” Eric looked back at her. “Why Sookie? Why did you do it? Why didn’t you use the cluviel dor for us?”
Sookie felt the sadness washing over her. Here was that question; the question. “I’m not sure I can tell you..” she started. Eric leaped from the bed. He walked over to the chair and grabbed his pants.
“You’re not sure?” he shouted at her. “Same old Sookie. You don’t know?”
Sookie jumped from the bed and grabbed his shirt just as he was reaching for it. “Oh no you don’t Eric Northman! You are not leaving. You are going to get back in that bed and you are going to let me explain myself.”
Eric stared down at her, his fangs slightly protruding, his eyes wild. Sookie took his hand in hers. She pulled him towards her and walked him back. “Eric, please.” She sat down on the side of the bed, his shirt in one hand and his hand in her other. She stared up at him. “I can’t tell you because the answer to that question has changed so many times.” She swallowed and pulled him slightly. He turned to sit beside her. She leaned over so her head could rest on his shoulder. “When it happened it was so fast. I thought Sam was my friend and my business partner. I just couldn’t stand the idea that Sam, that any friend of mine, would die in front of me and that I’d stand by and do nothing. Especially if I could save them.” She turned her forehead into his shoulder and rolled slightly back and forth against him. “And I couldn’t believe that you couldn’t just fix the other thing. I couldn’t understand why you just didn’t say, ‘Sookie, I choose you.’”
“I couldn’t. To have done that would have violated every belief; every code I held dear,” Eric said. He didn’t look at her instead he stared into the room. “And now this thing with de Castro. I promised him I would try to convince you to return to Louisiana. I pledged him my fealty; my service.”
Sookie smiled a little as she slipped her arm around him. “Well, you are a pretty good convincer. There was a moment back there when I would have done just about anything you asked.” And she nipped his arm.
Eric let out a breathless laugh. “Are you telling me I missed my moment?”
“I’m telling you that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, Eric Northman.” Sookie hugged him. “I thought about what I did and what it did to you so many times over these past years. When I realized just how I’d wasted our chance at happiness for a rat like Sam Merlotte; Eric there isn’t an ocean big enough for the tears I’ve shed.” Sookie shivered. “I hope you aren’t thinking that you want to punish me for it. Because you can also believe that I’ve taken enough punishment for ten lifetimes.” Sookie turned her face to him. She knew tears were on her cheeks and she could see his nostrils flare when he scented them.
“You said it before, Eric. I’ve changed. I won’t promise you that I won’t fight with you or that I’ll always go along with what you think is right..” Eric snorted. Sookie squeezed him harder. “What I will promise you is that I will fight for you. I will fight for us. Eric Northman, I was born to be yours. I will never doubt that again.” She could see Eric’s eyes grow wide. “And you are mine, buster. Don’t you forget it!”
“Buster?” he said. “I don’t know why you call me that.”
Sookie pushed him back on the bed and unfastened his pants. As she reached for him she said, “Don’t you worry about what I call you Mr. Northman. You just keep up your end of the bargain and everything will turn out just fine.”
Sookie and Eric moved to the light tight quarters. They were pleasantly surprised by the size of the bed and the indirect lighting. The room had light walls and it was pleasant. Sookie had made a point of telling Eric that she had no problem with any room so nicely decorated.
They sat up for hours discussing the challenges that lay ahead of them. Dawn found them and they were still not settled on any clear plan. Finally they let sleep claim them, entwined around each other.
Sookie found herself waking up in the late afternoon to a growling stomach. She had been so nervous yesterday that she had barely had anything for lunch and she had skipped dinner altogether. She carefully opened the first door and shut it again before she opened the door leading into the hallway. She retraced her steps to her room and fixed herself up enough to appear in the kitchen. She was still tired and she was walking more gingerly than she had in a long time. In the past Eric would have offered to heal her. They had talked about the blood exchange and decided that further exchanges were too dangerous. As it was any supernatural would be able to smell them on each other.
Barbara was at the counter working on dinner when Sookie appeared. “Well good afternoon sleepy head,” she said.
Sookie smiled brightly. “Top of the afternoon to you too!” She opened the refrigerator and grabbed a yogurt.
Barbara’s knowing look had Sookie laughing. “Well,” the telepath said, “I guess you know Eric is here.” Sookie couldn’t keep the smile off her face.
Barbara smiled right back. “I think the whole building knows that Eric is here.” Sookie could feel the blush flood her face. Barbara’s smile widened. “It looks like it was a happy reunion.”
Sookie nodded and glanced away from Barbara’s scrutiny. “It was… is.” She took a breath. “Is Lydia available?” Barbara nodded.
“This is usually the time she spends in her office. Why don’t you go knock on the door.”
Sookie walked through the kitchen to the small space that had once served as a pantry. It had a window that dominated the space making is light even on dark days. The desk and shelving were built into the walls. The overall effect was cozy and intimate. She knocked on the half open door and pushed it forward. Lydia was on her swivel chair. She turned as Sookie came in. “So the claiming went well?” Sookie found herself blushing again as she nodded. “How are you feeling about it?”
“Good,” Sookie said quickly. Then she thought about the feelings running through her. “Unsettled.” Lydia motioned to the small stool that sat in the corner. “It seems so fast. We still have so many things to settle. And there are problems; serious problems.”
Sookie told her about Felipe de Castro. If Eric didn’t convince her to move back to Louisiana he could find himself in trouble. “But didn’t the king appoint Eric regent? Surely that counts for something?”
Sookie shook her head. “I don’t know. He could be a good guy, but my gut says he’s not. During that whole time with Victor he could have made things better. Maybe he didn’t know what was going on. Maybe he trusted Victor. But I think Victor was Felipe’s fall guy. I think that Felipe had Victor do all that bad stuff so he could turn around and pretend it wasn’t him. When Victor died Felipe came to Shreveport. He didn’t look any too sorry to see Victor gone but he still wanted to punish Eric. I can’t explain it. I just know he’s a double dealing snake in the grass.”
“Sookie, I would like to speak with you both. I know that you feel strong now but this is a critical time for you. I would have preferred knowing that you were returning to a more stable place; a place that would allow you to catch your breath and clearly think things through.” She looked at Sookie and her face softened. “I am happy for you. How many of us lose our love and have a second chance to reclaim it? But if you aren’t ready things could spiral out of control again. You could find yourself falling back into the same habits – both of you.”
Sookie nodded. She noticed the light fading through the window. “We’ll come to the main room after first dark,” she said. She rose and walked back to the chamber where her Eric rested. She did not want him to rise without her by his side.
It was closer to seven by the time Sookie and Eric made their way to the living room. Lydia was reading and there was a fire burning. As the couple walked forward Lydia stood and bowed to Eric. “Greetings regent, and welcome to Sanctum.”
Eric bowed as well. “It is an honor to meet the lady of Sanctum. Your reputation is everywhere. I am in your debt.”
Lydia straightened and gestured toward the couch. Eric circled his arm around Sookie and turned her. Lydia noticed how they seemed to find ways to maintain some kind of physical contact. Although she didn’t share their bond she could see the comfort they derived from each other.
Eric leaned back and draped his arm around the telepath’s shoulders. “Sookie has told you of my situation?” he said. When Lydia nodded he continued. “Your reputation is one of neutrality. I am reluctant to share our plans in a way that might compromise you. But there are some things I need to say.” He glanced at Sookie. She smiled at him and placed her hand on his thigh. “If others were aware that Sookie and I have renewed this attachment we would both be in danger. We have exchanged blood. That means others will know. They will be able to smell us on and in each other. It will take some time to fade and a single exchange can be explained away.” Eric pulled Sookie closer to him. “I must tell my king that I have been rejected by Sookie and my king must believe that. He may ask someone to verify that information.”
Lydia looked down at the closed book in her lap. She thought through the implications. The sanctuary this place represented was due to the protection of kings and queens. If she were to be seen as taking sides, even if it turned out to be the right side, it would damage her standing and credibility.
Sookie looked at Lydia. “From where I sit this is what you know. You know that Eric came here in the middle of the night and before he was expected. You know that he was given a task by his king involving me. You know that we spent the night together and that there was sex involved.” Sookie couldn’t help the blush rising up her face. Eric could smell the change and smiled indulgently at her. Sookie was smiling back into his eyes. Then she turned back. “And you know that after he left I decided to leave too. And I told you that I was going to Mississippi.”
Lydia looked from one to the other. “So, when are you leaving?” she asked.
Eric answered. “I would ask your indulgence to be allowed to stay for one more night. I will be leaving before dawn.”
Sookie smiled sweetly. “And I will be leaving as well. I need to contact the kings and let them know I’m coming.”
They chatted about small things after that. But within the hour Sookie and Eric excused themselves. As they rose together and took their leave Lydia found herself hoping that they would find the happiness they deserved.
Sam Merlotte lay sprawled on the double bed. The girl he had used last night was still snoring, her back to him. He would kick her out at soon as his head cleared a little. He didn’t know her name but he didn’t need to. If there was one thing Las Vegas was good for it was an endless parade of empty headed bimbos willing to prostitute themselves for a little excitement in their lives. Sam had started to enjoy these encounters in animal form. He’d start human and then shift into something else. Sometimes he’d shift more than once. He liked to see the look of surprise on a girl’s face. Sometimes there was a look of fear. He liked that even better.
Felipe had set him up with a place to live but Sam didn’t think that the free ride would continue much longer. He couldn’t imagine why the king hadn’t made his move already. All he could figure was that De Castro must be getting something out of this. And who was Sam to question a king? So he spent the king’s money, ate the king’s food and fucked his way from one end of the strip to the other. And waited.
So when Horst approached him that night while he sat at the blackjack table he wasn’t surprised. “Come with me,” Horst had said. Sam followed Horst to the touchpad operated elevator. He could see that they were heading for the upper floors; the business floors. They walked down a few hallways before approaching a door that had a guard stationed outside. The guard nodded, opened the door and stepped back.
The office was all dark wood and rich carpeting. The window that framed the desk and chair boasted a fine view of the neon and lights that were the strip. Sam thought that a photo from here would be a perfect postcard. “Greetings from Las Vegas. Wish you were here.” But he got the feeling that he wouldn’t be sharing that sentiment for long.
“Ah, Mr. Merlotte!” Felipe looked at him like he was some long lost friend. Horst grabbed his arm and steered him to a chair. Horst then placed a hand on his shoulder and pressed until Sam was fully seated. “How have you been enjoying your stay in my kingdom?”
Sam made himself smile. “It’s been great. Thanks for the hospitality. You make me feel real welcome. I feel like all the loyalty I’ve shown you has been worthwhile.” And he smiled more broadly hoping that reminding the king would help.
Felipe frowned. “Yes you have been a good informer. But I’m not sure if your loyalty was to me or to the recently deceased Oklahoma.” Felipe waited to see Sam’s reaction.
“Not sure why you’d wonder your majesty,” Sam said smoothly. “Sure I did some side stuff for her but only when it didn’t interfere with your plans. Like she wanted me to hurt Stackhouse’s friends and brother. But I didn’t. It would have gotten messy and I knew you wanted to keep things on the down low.”
Felipe looked at him and his eyes grew hard. “Yes, we did cover this when you first arrived.” Felipe smiled then in a way that made Sam think of a crocodile. “And now it’s a question of what to do with you.” Felipe leaned back, bringing his hands together. He looked at his fingers as he continued. “I can’t send you back to either Louisiana or Oklahoma. Word has already traveled and it would be only a matter of time before you would tell everything under torture. Isn’t that right?”
Sam leaned back himself, trying to look nonchalant. “Yeah, that old life is pretty well gone for me. Which is why I need a new life here; a life that will allow me to keep being valuable for you.”
Felipe’s eyes shifted to Sam. “I have a hard time thinking what that value would be Mr. Merlotte. I think your shelf life has expired.” Sam felt Horst’s hand on his shoulder tighten.
Sam took a deep breath to keep his voice from shaking. “I could see how you might think that. Of course if anything were to happen to me a whole box of receipts and emails and other stuff that makes it clear that you were my employer would find its way to Oklahoma. I figure that the Viking won’t think he’s so indebted to you if he finds out what was really going on.” Felipe and Horst both hissed. Sam waited, wondering if he’d overplayed his hand. When he found himself still alive after a minute he pressed on.
“Seems to me that there’s money to be made in pit fighting. I don’t know when you’ve had a real shifter in there. Someone who can turn on a dime and force the opponent to combine both skill and brains. You could package it as mixed martial arts with a supernatural twist. I’ll change my name. If you advance me a little coin I’ll visit one of the plastic men and do a little facial alteration. We could sell it as an X game and broadcast it on internet or cable for subscription.” Sam could see Felipe starting to consider what he was saying. “And if you wanted to do some mortal combat stuff on the side we could arrange that. Hell, I’d do the first one for free just because you’ve been such a good host.”
Felipe considered. He didn’t like that this shifter was blackmailing him. He would have to consider what was to be done. “A worthy idea. But the first two mortal encounters are free. Consider it payment for the plastic surgeon.” The king nodded at Horst and Sam was escorted from the office.