NOTE: Thank you Breathesgirl. Your patience and input is always appreciated.
Maude walked down the corridor shoulder to shoulder with Sookie. When they reached a juncture in the halls the Queen gestured toward the turn that would lead to the rooms Maude had intended for the telepath’s use.
“You look much better than when I last saw you,” Maude said with a quick sideways glance. When Sookie glanced back at her with a smile Maude continued. “How is my friend Lydia? Does she seem to be doing well?”
“Lydia is just wonderful people,” Sookie replied. “I try to talk with her every day.”
Maude looked kindly at the younger woman. “I remember you telling me that having someone to discuss things with might have helped you with some of the problems you were having; talking might have helped ease your burden.”
“I was right,” she said and she shook her head and glanced at Maude, “I wasn’t in Eric’s room, was I?”
“No,” Maude answered, “You were not.”
“Possible it was just a mix-up?” Sookie looked hopeful.
Maude nodded more to herself. “It’s possible.” Maude looked down, her face serious as she asked, “Who told you to go there?”
“Karin,” Sookie responded. “I asked where Eric was staying and she offered to show me to his room.”
Maude considered before answering. “It is possible it was a mistake then. My servants were only recently aware of the final chamber assignments. It is possible that Karin heard incorrectly.”
Maude smiled and moved on, continuing to the end of the hall and opening the door to Sookie’s chamber. “As luck would have it, your Eric is directly across the hall.” Maude winked at her, “But you won’t need to use these public doors.” Maude walked into the room past the bed and to the far end of the bedchamber. There she unlocked and opened another solid door: The soft sounds of night filtered into the room.
Maude stepped through and Sookie followed her onto a large wood plank deck. The edges of the platform were lit by soft solar lights. There were wooden chaise chairs covered with soft cushions and steps that led down to what appeared to be fields beyond. The night was filled with the sound of spring peepers. Sookie heard an owl and looked up at the sky full of stars and a crescent moon high overhead. Sookie shivered just a little and wrapped her arms around herself.
“Your rooms share this deck. And if you look around,” Maude gestured with her arm, “this wing is isolated from the rest of the house. You will have your privacy here.”
Sookie found herself staring at the Minnesota Queen as realization hit her. “You know about Eric and me. Even before you found me tonight? How?”
Maude smiled. “I could tell you that I’m telepathic but that wouldn’t be true. I just found out yesterday. Russell Edgington was told by Mr. Cataliades. Russell told the monarchs here because we needed to know.” Maude reached out and briefly touched Sookie’s cheek. “We are with you both, we kings and queens of Amun. We will do what we can to bring you both home.”
Sookie felt her heart clench a little and her throat tightened. She looked at the deck and the chairs. She looked at the door that led from the room that was across from her own. She felt her lips pull up into a smile and she released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “Thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for both of us.”
Maude smiled and glanced back toward the house. “I would suggest that until your Viking joins you that you remain in your room. I have guards patrolling the perimeter of the property but it’s still probably better to be cautious.” Maude gave Sookie an arch look, “Course once your Viking does arrive I’d expect the guards will be well off in the distance. Don’t feel like you have to hold back on our account!”
Sookie remembered the looks she’d received at Sanctum after Eric’s visit and she found herself blushing hot and bright. Maude laughed out loud. “Don’t you be blushing! It’s a strong woman who can love a man like he deserves. We vampires are a greedy lot; possessive by nature. Don’t you ever be embarrassed about claiming your own with one of us. It’s the highest compliment you can pay him because his claiming you is the highest compliment he can give.” Maude walked back to the door. “Now let’s get you back inside and settled. The kings will probably hold onto Eric for another hour but I’ll pry him free and send him your way.”
“I have a better idea.” Sookie glanced at the open suitcase and grabbed a folded shirt. “If you can give me a minute to freshen up I’ll come with you. No need for Eric to go searching.”
Maude paused as she considered, then she made her decision. “ I have to rejoin my guests, but I will find Thalia to guide you to my kitchen,” the monarch winked.
“Kitchen?” Sookie asked.
“Of course,” the monarch confirmed. “The place all business in any home should be conducted.”
“That’s what my Gran used to say,” Sookie smiled. “Won’t take me a minute,” and the telepath ran towards the bathroom.
As Maude rushed back down the hall her mind turned to Karin. There was something about this that did not sit right. It was possible that Karin had made a mistake but to have put Sookie in Isaiah’s room seemed too much of a coincidence. Maude was certain that if she had not been at the king’s side when he opened the door Isaiah would have claimed Sookie, even if the telepath had protested.
Maude knew Isaiah well. While he was honorable it was an honor defined after his own fashion. Isaiah had a strong belief in signs. Because he desired the telepath, or at least what she represented to him, he would have interpreted Sookie’s presence in his room as the hand of fate. Any resistance she might have made he would have dismissed as game playing or delaying some inevitable outcome. Isaiah lived in a world of absolutes. If the woman was in his bed it was for a reason and he would let fate play its hand even if that led to a fight and his final death.
It was because of the king’s belief system that Maude allowed herself to believe that Isaiah would get over his disappointment. After all, he and the telepath hadn’t spent that much time together; days really. She was not vampire and Isaiah had never shown any particular interest in relationships with other supernaturals, much less humans. Because Isaiah and Maude had been together when they found Sookie the Queen was sure that Kentucky would interpret that as fate’s hand pointing out that the telepath and he were not meant to be together. ‘It will all be well,’ she thought as she walked back down the hallway.
As Maude entered the main body of the house she found Thalia. From the direction the woman was coming Maude thought she had probably been visiting the donors.
“Majesty,” the vampire said with no bow at all.
“Thalia, so nice to see you remain unchanged,” Maude had bowed her head instead. It earned the Minnesota queen a wry smile from the dark haired vampire.
“I am unchanged, like the rocks. But on occasion I find that I am worn down,” and with those words Thalia bowed deeply. When she rose she glanced over the Queen’s shoulder. “Is all well?”
“Yes, but there was some mix up earlier. Our Miss Stackhouse found herself in the wrong room.” When Thalia’s eyebrow lifted Maude continued. “She was in Kentucky’s bed.”
Thalia hissed. “How dare he? I could see while we were in Kentucky he was stalking her. What right did he have to take her?” The vampire made a move to head down the hallway.
Maude held up her hand and barred the way by stepping in front of Thalia. “This was not Isaiah’s doing. I was with him when he found her. He was as surprised as I was.”
Thalia caught herself but her voice was still strained. “Did he touch her?”
Maude shook her head, “No. He stayed at the door of the room. I woke her.” Maude tilted her head. “I assume you were with the donors?”
Thalia nodded. “Yes. I left Sookie sleeping in her own chamber. I thought I would be safe leaving her to feed.” Maude nodded. Thalia’s eyes became considering. “Do you have any idea how she came to be in Kentucky’s room?”
Maude’s mouth settled into a straight line. “I gather our Sookie decided to go looking for the Viking. She told me that she found Karin and it was Karin that directed her to Kentucky’s room.” Thalia hissed again. “It’s possible that it was a mistake. I had originally planned on placing the telepath and Kentucky together.” Maude held both hands up to stop Thalia who leaned forward, “but Russell Edgington told me last night about the nature of the tie between Sookie and Northman. I switched the arrangements and tracked down Isaiah myself. Isaiah had no way of knowing about any of this. As far as he knew; as far as any of us knew Sookie Stackhouse was no longer tied to anyone.”
Maude shook her head again. “I don’t know how to explain Karin’s action. She might have found an old list left from the servants or someone may have made a mistake.”
Thalia was looking at her with hard eyes. “There is one way to find out. Karin knows.”
Maude considered. “I haven’t seen Karin since they arrived. I’m sure we will find her.” Maude glanced over Thalia’s shoulder toward the main house. “I don’t know what’s holding up Northman. I had expected he’d hightail it over here by now.” She looked back to Thalia. “Sookie is changing her shirt. Would you escort her to the kitchen when she’s ready?”
Thalia nodded. “I will escort her. No need for her to go wandering into any more unexpected places.”
Maude nodded. “I just can’t escape the feeling that she needs to have someone watching over her.” Then Maude laughed. “Oh goodness! I just remembered something that Pam told me about Sookie! She told me that Sookie is a lot of trouble!”
Thalia smiled. “Yes that is true.”
Maude shook her head. “I’m sure we’ll all laugh about musical rooms tomorrow, but for now I have a bad feeling. And that I feel that way in my own home pisses me off more than I can say.”
Thalia nodded. Then she walked around the Queen and back toward the telepath’s room. Maude watched her for a minute and then continued on her way back to the main house to find out what was delaying Eric Northman.
Sookie turned at the sound of the door behind her. Thalia glided into the bedroom and came to stand beside the telepath. “You seem to have a problem staying put, breather,” Thalia growled.
“Guess I do,” Sookie agreed. Sookie smoothed the wrinkles from her blouse and walked to the mirror hanging over the small bureau. She picked up the brush and then closed her eyes. This was part of her new discipline. She reached out with her telepathy to see who and what was around her. Thalia recognized what had become a familiar look and nodded her approval. After a few seconds Sookie opened her eyes and started brushing her hair. Looking at Thalia in the mirror’s reflection she said, “There are at least seven vampires out there patrolling. And I heard another ten or eleven Weres.”
Thalia gave Sookie a tight smile “Of course. It would not be right if there were not patrols. Even for one as well-liked as Maude there is always danger.” Thalia allowed her feeling of irritation to show. “When I left you I thought you were sleeping. I would not have gone to feed if I had realized you were not settled.”
Sookie shook her head a little. “I did doze. That panic attack really kicked the crap out of me.” She held Thalia’s eyes in the mirror and gave the vampire a contrite smile. “I know. I shouldn’t have gone wandering without you. I think it’s him being here that has me bouncing around like a yoyo.” The telepath shrugged and then blew out a long breath. “Do you think he can feel me now?”
“Perhaps. Even with my blood masking his your proximity should allow him to more fully feel you through the blood.”
Sookie turned her eyes to her own reflection. “Can I ask you a question?” When Thalia just stared at her, Sookie continued, “Can you tell me about being bonded; I mean permanently bonded with a vampire?” Thalia’s eyes widened. “What would I expect to be a part of that?”
Thalia hissed. “Why are you asking me this? You were bonded. You know what is involved.”
Sookie shrugged. “Well, you’re right. I was bonded to Eric but I didn’t know anything about it. I was always wondering what it was supposed to do; what it meant. I know I could feel him. I knew if he was coming because I’d feel so happy. And there were days that I would be all angry and sad and then I’d find out later that those were days he was having troubles. I wondered later if the reason that I was so angry then was because it was really him.” Sookie looked directly at Thalia. “Please Thalia? By the time I was close enough to Pam to ask things between Eric and I were just not good. And Eric? He never explained anything! He’d just go off and do whatever he thought was best and leave me guessing.”
Thalia scowled. “You forget I was there. You never asked questions. You assumed you knew the answers.”
Sookie almost protested but caught herself. She thought about it and said, “You know? You’re right. And look where that got me.” Sookie looked Thalia right in the eye. “Well, I’m asking questions now. I want to know. I want to know if I ask Eric Northman to bond with me again what it really means to both of us.”
Thalia turned her back and stared at the door to the hallway. Sookie thought she was going to leave but instead the vampire spoke. “A bond; a true bond between mates is a sharing of essence. It requires that beings take each into the other and that there be an agreement; a consent between them. You become one.” Thalia turned and looked at Sookie then. “It is a sacred thing. I have never heard of one being broken until you.” Sookie got the impression that this was deeply disturbing for Thalia. “A true bond; a blood bond is more than the sharing of blood. It is your oath that if one passes to final death the other will follow; it is a promise that no matter what realm you inhabit, as partners you will never walk alone.”
Sookie felt tears come to her eyes as she felt the strength of Thalia’s conviction. Now that she wasn’t fighting what she was and what Eric was to her she felt like she was finally hearing this in a way that spoke to her heart. “It’s a marriage.”
Thalia scoffed. “Marriage? It is not the same. A marriage is a thing of paper; a thing of the word and the mind that can be set aside. A bond is a thing of heart and blood and bone. It is not what you decide; it is what you are.”
Sookie nodded and smiled. “Thalia? Let’s go find him.”
Maude entered her kitchen to find Russell, Bartlett and Stan lounging in chairs. Eric was standing near the back window looking into the darkness.
“I agree,” Eric was saying, “with our combined influence we will be able to convince at least two banks to recall their loans to De Castro. Even if all we have is a threat, that information can be leaked to the press. It’s the kind of news that will cause his other vendors and suppliers to panic, adding to the pressure.”
Stan frowned. “So what? He has money troubles. We’ve all had them in past. What’s to convince a full tribunal to not just force a challenge or grant De Castro some kind of extension?”
Eric swung around, giving the kings his full attention. “It is different now. Felipe is a national figure. People have seen his face and they are aware of his interests. We can’t just make him disappear as we could in past.”
Russell nodded. “You’re right. We reached the same conclusion. But the idea of a tribunal offering him a loan to give him time to consolidate and refinance is possible.”
Eric smiled, “That assumes that the potential embarrassment of failure would make them generous. I believe that Felipe has over-taxed his friendships. He would need the full support of his own Clan at a minimum. I believe that Robert’s appearance as magister in Los Angeles made it clear that Felipe has alienated his base. Who in the other Clans would offer support to a monarch who has lost the favor of his own Clan?” The kings nodded.
Russell spoke, “I agree. Robert’s judging against him was a clear sign to us all. Any who step forward to help him do so at their own peril. They could find any favors due them from Narayana cancelled.”
Stan leaned back. “But a full tribunal? Is it wise to ask for that kind of body for something like this? If for some reason we do end up with members of other Clans favoring Felipe, and if he somehow won you could find yourself in a hard place, Eric. You would be cast as renegade and traitor.”
Eric’s expression hardened. “Not a traitor,” he said. “I pledged my fealty to Felipe de Castro because I believed that he had ever been a fair witness and supporter during my time as Sheriff of Area 5. But I have found out that he was not honest with me. He violated the terms of the marriage contract which he himself signed as witness. Sandy Seacrest is in Oklahoma now assembling the documents that prove his faithlessness. The demon lawyer is with her and together they will travel directly to Nashville.”
Bartlett looked worried. “Oklahoma is now enemy territory for you, Northman. Aren’t you worried about their safety? If they are destroyed your evidence could be gone with them.”
Eric shook his head. “Oklahoma is not enemy territory. It is my territory and I am still named regent. I am here on a pre-approved visit to negotiate favorable terms for supplies with the Minnesota queen.” Eric smirked and bowed toward Maude. “Felipe may have his suspicions but if we time this right he should be too busy trying to raise money to be worrying about grinding the axe he has for me.”
“And Horst?” Maude said from the door. “What of him? Pam will likely be his first call.”
Eric nodded, “Pam and Maxwell Lee will be ready. While we were in Los Angeles Horst proposed a marriage between Pam and Alabama.”
Maude shook her head, “You’re kidding! Like Alabama would ever agree. Any fool would see that as a prelude to a takeover. Alabama is a prize bitch but she’s not stupid.”
“I agree. Why Horst and Felipe would even suggest it speaks to how poorly they understand the players. From what I have observed Felipe has managed to isolate himself and it’s affecting his perspective. He has lost his way.” The other monarchs nodded. “All the more reason to make the move now before he realizes his error and has time to recover.” Eric swung back to face Maude. “If confronted Pam will make clear that she is in support of any plan Horst wishes including the marriage. She’ll tell him how disappointed she is in me and my obsession with Sookie Stackhouse. She’ll say what she needs to. But if a tribunal orders the territory ceded back to Amun then her allegiance can travel with it.”
Stan tented his fingers. “Northman, what if the tribunal decides not to kick out De Castro; what if the decision is to leave him with his territories? What then?”
“I’ll challenge him and kill him,” Eric said. The Viking observed the widened eyes as the group became more alert. “If I survive I will leave and head to Europe. That will create a vacuum and the states will revert back to your Clans. You will find yourselves much in the same place. There may be some fallout in terms of publicity. I would suggest the woman I used for Los Angeles to help spin any collateral damage. She has proven herself valuable. Pam has her contact information.” He allowed those present time to absorb his statement. He looked to Russell, “In exchange I would ask one favor. If I survive I would ask that you release Sookie from her contract if that is her wish.” Eric turned back to look out into the night. “I find I no longer wish to be parted from her,” he said.
“Well that’s good to hear, Eric, because I feel the same way about it,” Sookie said from the door. Eric found that the room around him disappeared as she stepped forward. His arms opened and she stepped into them. He inhaled deeply then looked over her head to Thalia.
“Thalia,” Eric inclined his head.
“North Man,” she bowed back.
“I assume it is your blood that hides my own in my woman,” he said.
“You are a fool, Viking,” she growled.
“Yes, I am,” he winked. Then his look became more sober. “ I consider this as payment against any debt.”
Thalia nodded. “Too slight for what is between us.” Then she moved to stand to the side, her back against the wall.
Eric took Sookie’s hand and led her to a chair. He sat next to her and then reached over and took her hand back in his own.
Maude smiled. In all her days she had never thought to see Eric Northman being so openly affectionate with anyone. She found herself checking the reactions of those around her table. Stan was looking uncomfortable but Russell and Bartlett were smiling in a more than indulgent way. It was as though they were taking some ownership of the situation.
“Did Isaiah pass through here?” Maude asked. Heads turned and moved in the negative. “No,” Russell spoke up. “I haven’t seen him yet tonight.” Then he looked thoughtful. “Odd.”
Maude nodded and walked through to a preparation area. She caught the eye of a Martha, a new server in the palace. “Martha, would you go see if you can find the Kentucky king? If he’s not in his rooms ask Thomas, his second, if he would ask Isaiah to come talk with me.” Maude turned to walk back to the kitchen then remembered something. “Oh, and Martha? I need you to locate Karin Slaughterer. No message. Just find out where she is and let me know?” The servant nodded and walked briskly back into the house.
Martha returned to the kitchen in time to hear Bartlett say, “Well, Princess Sookie, how are you finding Minnesota?”
Sookie looked away from Eric then. Her eyes were sparkling and she smiled. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that! First of all it just sounds silly. All I can think of is how I grew up. If you knew a really big guy you’d call him ‘Tiny’ or if you knew someone who was kind of dim you’d call him ‘Professor.’ So when you call me ‘Princess’ all I can think is I must be looking like trailer trash.”
Bartlett laughed out loud. Russell added, “You need to get used to hearing it. You have accepted your heritage. You are Brigant’s heir and even if your people are no longer with us we honor them and their blood,” and he toasted her.
Stan sat up and the sour expression on his face changed. “What do you mean?” he asked Russell.
But it was Sookie who answered. “Evening, Stan. It’s been awhile. I think the last time we saw each other was that evening we spent at your home in Dallas. That sure was one hot time.” Eric chuckled next to her. He knew that Sookie was remembering sucking the bullet from his chest.
Sookie smiled broadly towards the Texas king. “It hasn’t been made common knowledge yet but I am part fairy. I am a great-great granddaughter to Niall Brigant.”
“And his sole living heir,” Bartlett added from across the table.
‘Ahh,” Stan said as if that answered something that was bothering him. “Now I understand.” His whole expression changed and he became more relaxed in his chair. He turned to Eric, “Congratulations, Northman. Leave it to you to find a strong alliance in a beautiful package,” and he bowed to Sookie.
Russell swirled the goblet in his fingers gently. “So Northman, what does De Castro think you’re doing here?”
“He approved my visit to negotiate for more favorable rates on silica sand. With the planned expansion into natural gas and oil recovery I expressed a desire to improve expenses. “
Maude smiled. “I’m sure we can modify your current terms and conditions.” They discussed the costs for the materials he was importing and the queen confirmed her willingness to offer the Viking preferred terms on sand.
Stan spoke up, “And if Sandy were to be named queen for Oklahoma?”
“Same deal would go for her,” Maude confirmed.
“If all goes well and I was named king,” Sookie’s intake of breath was heard by everyone at the table. Eric turned to her and held her eyes. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it before continuing, “I would be developing similar operations in both Louisiana and Arkansas. I will return to confirm terms should that eventuality come to pass.”
“Could we expect a favorable change in the freighting and harbor rates for Amun Clan using Louisiana ports?” Maude asked.
Eric grinned. “I’m sure that would be part of the agreement.”
“Our existence would be much brighter if this all came to pass,” Russell said. “And that depends on the proceedings in Nashville.”
Bartlett looked around. “It would be helpful if Isaiah were here. He will have to host those who are asked to sit the tribunal. Any idea where he might be?”
Maude shook her head. “You know Isaiah. He can be… well…. Isaiah! I’ve sent someone to find him,” and Maude smiled. But underneath her smile Maude was beginning to be worried.
It was agreed that most would travel home tomorrow night. For Stan there was much to prepare for the Zeus Summit. He was hosting this year in San Antonio. He would look for the tribunal request and do his best to influence his fellow Clan Council members on the representative to be chosen.
“Because if it is Felipe de Castro I will not be considered. He and I have some bad blood. I would think it most likely to be either Finn of Nebraska or Ralph of Kansas. Both are geographically closer and that counts for this kind of thing.”
“Ralph?” Sookie asked. ‘That’s an odd name for a vampire.”
“His name was Raffaelo. He is from Italy but he thought it easier to change it when he came here,” Stan answered. “Like myself.”
Bartlett rubbed his chin. “Ralph might be a problem. He was taken with Freyda and was not happy when she was ended. I suspect he’d support anything that would stab at Felipe but if Eric’s emancipation comes with it he might fight it just to be difficult.”
Stan nodded. “And Finn is a wild card. I’ve only met him a few times. He keeps to his circle. Isaiah is friendly with him.”
Bartlett sighed. “Of course I’ll send the requests to Narayana and Moshup tonight. With the state of things in Narayana who wants to bet that Robert makes another appearance.”
Maude chuckled. “I still can’t believe he did the deed in Los Angeles. He must be mightily pissed off. So I say it’s a sucker’s bet and I’ll let it ride. He’ll be there!”
Russell nodded. “I think you’re right. And for Moshup? My bet is either Florida or the Carolinas. Georgia has been silent for too long. I think that their king may have lost himself in Savannah.”
Maude chuckled. She looked at Sookie under an arched brow. “Folks today think that New Orleans is the most open city when it comes to vampires, but it’s really Savannah. The residents there knew about Charles long before the Revelation, but they just kept it to themselves. They figured he was one of their own and they protected him.”
Sookie smiled. “It is a wonderful thing being from the South.”
Russell nodded. “It is indeed,” he smiled back.
Bartlett rolled his eyes. “Talk about living in the past! You’re in Yankee territory now. Show some of that Southern courtesy and get over yourselves!”
Sookie laughed out loud and her laughter was echoed around the table. “What about Amun?” she asked. “Who would be representing this Clan?” Eric smiled at her, his eyes widening. It had been many years since he had given her first lesson on vampire hierarchy. Her confidence filled him with pride.
“Oh, Phoebe Golden of Iowa,” Bartlett volunteered. “I’ll send the email tomorrow night. She’s been expecting it.”
Maude looked at Russell. “Will you be leaving as well?”
Russell shook his head. “With your permission I’d like to remain. Since Sookie is officially part of my retinue and I’m her primary contact it would be thought odd if she were here but not working on something in particular for you.”
Maude nodded. She saw the quick look exchanged between Northman and the telepath. “I think that Eric should stay as well. We can all travel to Nashville together.” It was quickly agreed and the conversation became more general.
Sookie beamed at Eric. Their happiness was infectious and soon everyone was sharing jokes and funny stories about mutual acquaintances and themselves. Maude found her eyes drawn to the sight of the couple; their blond heads close together as he whispered something in her ear. Sookie turned to him, her eyes crinkling in response pushing against his shoulder playfully. It was as though a light was around them.
Maude looked up to see Thalia watching her from the corner of the room. Her eyebrows were raised now and Maude understood the gesture to mean, ‘See? There is something there; something more.’ Maude couldn’t put her finger on it, but when she looked at the telepath and the Viking again her sense of wonder remained: There was something more.
Sookie and Eric didn’t remain long. Sookie did eat something while the monarchs drank. Once the laughter had lulled the Viking had turned to Sookie. She was clearly answering a question he didn’t need to ask and she placed her hand in his. He smiled as they stood, his arm easily finding its way around her waist. The telepath smiled warmly at each of them before the couple turned and walked away side by side. Maude found she couldn’t stop watching them. She saw his face turn and look down at her raised smile as they turned the corner and then they were gone. She looked at her other guests and realized that each of them had the same bemused look; each had also been captured in some way.
When they reached the door of his room Eric looked at her; his eyes held a question. She reached out and turned the handle then walked in ahead of him answering what he asked. Once the door was closed he caught her and held her against him. She jumped up and he lifted her, his arms wrapped around her waist. He made sure she was high enough so that she could lay her cheek against his. He turned his head and buried his nose in the hollow just below her ear and inhaled. She smelled of that indescribable thing that made him think ‘home’. She wrapped her legs around him and he dropped one arm lower to secure her, turning his nose back to her neck and rubbing back and forth. Her scent; that unique scent that was his Sookie was sweeter than he remembered. He wondered if it was his new freedom that made her seem so welcome to him now.
He carried her to the bed and laid her on it. As he looked down at her he started unbuttoning his shirt. When her eyes widened he chuckled. “Seeing something you like lover?” He opened the sides and ran his hands up his torso, tweaking his own nipples before pulling the shirt from his shoulders and letting it drop.
“Damn, Eric. You are the sexiest man I have ever imagined. You should come with a warning label!” Sookie sat up and pulled the blouse over her head leaving all the buttons done.
“Anxious?” Eric laughed.
“Greedy!” she responded and pulled at her pants next. Eric stood back and watched her strip herself. She raced through and he found himself laughing. He placed his knee on the bed to help her untangle some hair that had caught itself in her bra hook as she’d tried to drag that off without unclasping it as well. While his hands plucked at the strands Sookie started to unfasten his pants.
Eric finished detaching the piece of clothing from her hair and then took her hands in his. “What happened earlier, lover? You were upset.”
Sookie sat back, her nipples taut in the cool air of the room. She bit her lip a little. “It was a memory, Eric. A flashback. I have them once in a while.”
Eric came forward on the bed and sat with his back propped against the headboard. He pulled her to him and then pulled a blanket to cover her. “Tell me Sookie. Tell me what you saw.”
Sookie told him about how the house had triggered the memory. She told him about the event long ago. She found when she got to the part about what Sam did to her; how he had punished her she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. Eric’s arms gripped her more securely. “I can imagine what happened; what it is you can’t say.” Sookie nodded. Eric kissed her head then. “Know this my Sookie, that there is nothing that happens to the body that truly matters. It was a moment in time. The physical damage is gone. It is your soul that I love and I would love even if there were reminders painted in your flesh.”
“Oh Eric, if you knew you wouldn’t see me in the same way. I’m not sure that I see myself the same way anymore.”
Above her Eric stilled. He remembered his own time from long ago. “It is natural to think that the scars that are inflicted are there for all to see but they are not. The experience is now a part of you. How much you allow it to define you is your choice. But know that there is nothing that was done to you that I would not understand. There is nothing that happened that would have meaning to me. You are no longer his; you are mine. And I am yours because you chose me.” Sookie looked up at him then. His eyes were warm and she believed that he did understand. “Do you still choose me, Sookie?”
“Oh yes!” she said. She turned and pushed herself up so that she could kiss him. Her hands dropped to his pants again. Eric helped her, standing up beside the bed and allowing the pants to slip from his hips. He turned his head and gave her a sly look. He knew she’d been looking at his butt again. Sookie shrugged. “Sue me,” she said.
As he turned to her Sookie felt something come over her. Eric could see her face become confused and then thoughtful. “What is it, Sookie? Another flashback?”
Sookie stood up then and she took his hand. She led him to the door that she knew would open to the deck that Maude had shown her earlier. Sookie could see the question on his face. They’d had sex outside before but not often. Sookie couldn’t explain it herself, but she knew that she wanted him under the openness of the sky. She wanted to hear all of nature around her singing as she loved her Viking.
Sookie led Eric to one of the large chaise lounges and pushed him backwards so he was sitting. Then she put her knees on the seat, positioning herself so she was straddling his lap. As soon as her knees hit the cushion he brought his hands up to cage her. He traced his fingers along the lower plains of her shoulder blades, and then to her ribs. ‘Still so thin,’ he thought as he followed the lines of her ribs to the soft weight of her breasts. He lifted one of her hands to his lips and kissed her open palm and then placed that same hand on his neck. He trailed his hands over her; his long fingers formed cradles to capture the weight of her breasts and he used his thumbnails to stroke and tease her nipples.
Sookie’s breathing ratcheted. She leaned back just a little further and then arched her back to make sure that her breasts filled his hands. She brought her hand up to frame his face and she traced his jawline with her thumb. “Mine,” she murmured.
“Yours,” he said, and then turned his head and captured her thumb with his mouth first sucking and then nipping the meaty part of her pad. Sookie turned her thumb just a little and slid it along his teeth stopping to stroke the longer curve of each fang. The purr that was her reward seemed to vibrate through his chest.
Eric kept his eyes on Sookie’s as he started to suck her thumb, drawing her digit in and then releasing it over and over, mimicking the movements of joining. His look was feral and she Sookie knew herself to be looking in the eyes of a predator. Eric leaned forward to capture her breast with his mouth. Sookie brought her hands down to grip his forearms. She used her elbows and arms to press her breasts forward. “Drink,” she urged him. “Drink from me, Eric.”
Eric slid his fangs into her breast. He was not as controlled tonight and Sookie felt a drop of blood flowing down her chest. When the air hit the moisture she felt her nipple tighten almost painfully
Sookie grabbed Eric’s hair and tugged but he responded with a growl and released her. He stood up lifting them both, and then turning, set her down on the chair. He took her ankles and pulled her until she laid flat, her legs bent at the knees and her feet flat on the deck. He ran his hands up her legs stroking her thighs with feather touches going higher and higher and then bringing his thumbs to where her legs joined and he used his thumbs to outline and dip. He did not meet her eyes; instead his eyes seemed to be on everything else. Sookie felt that he was cataloging her; memorizing every part. Sookie felt warm and beautiful and cherished within his gaze.
When she tried to sit up Eric placed a large hand in the middle of her stomach holding her down. He settled himself on his knees at the end of the chair. He pulled her body toward him, lifting her feet to rest on his thighs. “So beautiful,” he whispered. “Watch me.” Then he parted her with his fingers and he lowered his face. Sookie felt her heartbeat ratchet as he worshiped her with tongue and fingers. She reached for his hair but he captured her hands in one of his and held her captive. She bucked and cried out, her body arching as she sought her release. He turned his head then and she lost his eyes. She felt his bite again and it triggered the clenching of her walls around his fingers.
His head lay against her thigh and his fingers still thrust lazily in and out of her. He showed no sign of moving. She felt air moving over her and realized he was inhaling the scent of her. She loosed one of her hands and ran her fingers through his hair.
“Eric, please come to me,” she begged.
“You smell like honey and sunshine my lover. I never want to be any further from you than this.” He turned his head and moved towards her just enough to kiss and nip the skin of her thigh.
“Eric, if you are really thinking about walking around with your nose in my lady parts we are in for a lot of teasing” she said, and she tugged at him again. Eric rolled his head and then smiled up at her. He balanced his chin on his hand and Sookie smiled back, ruffling his hair. She looked at his mischievous face and she had a flash of a smaller version of this man, his hair all askew with sticky face and hands; a child. Her heart clenched and the vision was gone as her Eric’s eyes darkened.
Eric glided forward covering her body with his own. He slipped one hand beneath her and took the other with him entwining their fingers and pinning her hand near her head. He nosed the space between her breasts inhaling deeply. He licked the trail of blood he had left earlier as he continued his journey towards her. “I am not sure that I can be gentle,” he said his voice strangled.
Sookie reached down and found him and brought him to her entrance. “Good. I don’t want you to be,” she told him. And then she bit his lip hard enough to draw blood and drank from him. He roared and reared up entering her in one swift movement. It took everything in her to not gasp as she felt him filling her. Instead she sucked on the wound harder, drawing him into herself in every way.
Eric used his hand to raise her hips. He slid out of her and Sookie could see his eyes gleaming. “Mine!” he said and he pushed forward again. Sookie’s breath came in short gasps as they found their rhythm. She let her head fall back so she could see him clearly. His eyes held hers; his eyes that watched and loved and demanded. “Come for me, Sookie,” he growled. He leaned forward, the angle shifting. He slashed a gash on his chest with his fingernail and brought her lips to him. As she drank she could feel herself coming apart. When he turned his head and sank his fangs into her neck, the overwhelming feeling of having him in her and on her and taking from her had her flying on the crest of an endless wave.
When she felt the wound close she let her head fall back, her eyes open. Eric was still, his head resting against her shoulder; his arm wrapped around her. Sookie saw a star shooting across the dark sky. ‘I know how you feel,’ she thought.