Author’s Note: Thanks to everyone for your support and interest in the story. I love hearing from you. Thank you Breathesgirl for sharing your skills with me.
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.
Nautical Note: Beating means that the wind is coming at you so the only way to make progress is to turn the boat, first left and then right, over and over again to sail against the wind. The most frustrating time to be in this positon is when you are headed home and you wonder if you will ever make enough forward progress to gain safe harbor.
There were no longer people stepping forward to bow and pledge. Eric looked down at Sookie and he extended his hand to her. Sookie recognized that Eric was performing. The way he held his head and the exaggerated movement he made with the offer to take her hand was all for show. As Sookie smiled in a way that she was sure was expected, she looked out into the room of faces and realized that the knot of people she knew to be donors had not stepped forward. She knew that on some level she had been looking for them; the women from the garden and the man she knew Eric had fed from.
Eric must have felt her surprise because he tilted his head a bit and extended his hand with a little more force.
Sookie made a point of laying her hand in his first. ‘Don’t leave him hanging,’ she thought with a wry smile. “I was wondering about the people who live in the donor group,” she said out loud. “I guess I would have expected them to pledge too.”
Eric’s brow wrinkled. “It is not customary,” he told her.
“Oh,” Sookie said. Then she persisted, “But why would that be? I mean of everyone here they have the most access to you vampires, right?” She could see the eye roll starting on Eric’s face when she made her decision. “I would feel better knowing that every creature that will be in contact with you on a regular basis has made their loyalty clear.”
Eric’s face became serious and Sookie could hear the buzz in the room still. She knew that with their hearing, the conversation between herself and Eric had been followed by every vampire in the room and that was pretty much everyone in attendance. While she hadn’t exactly challenged him, Sookie had just made a demand. Eric glanced at Thalia and gave a short nod. Thalia was not smiling as she stepped from the dais and headed towards the back of the room. ‘Fine,’ thought Sookie. ‘Not like you smile much anyway!’
Eric drew her up so that she was standing beside him. He leaned to brush her cheek with his lips and whispered, “We will talk later.”
Sookie looked at him brightly and ran her fingers over his cheek. She turned her head just a little so she could mouth the words ‘Yes, we will,” without being overseen.
There was a murmur as a group of no less than twenty five men and women stepped forward. They were of all nationalities and complexions. Most were in their twenties or early thirties but there were several who looked like they could have been minors. As they approached Sookie found herself listening to their array of thoughts. Some were curious about the new king and his court. Others were actively determining who they would target as potential long-term companions. More than one of the donors was looking at Sookie and thinking that the king could do so much better than a northern Louisiana hog caller. As each came forward, Sookie scanned them. She looked long and hard at the man she could tell was stealing things from the palace and selling them to an antiques dealer on the outside. She memorized the face of the woman who was thinking about telling her story to the newspaper. Most of the donors were curious as to why they had been called forward. It had never happened before and it worried them
Then it was the man’s turn; the man Sookie had seen in the head of the woman earlier. As he bowed he was thinking in very graphic terms about taking Eric into his mouth. Eric was feeding from him most evenings and the man, Denny, was hopeful that this would lead to more. He wasn’t malicious but he was attracted and wishing it would be mutual.
As Sookie watched each face she found herself wondering how these people had found their way here; what made someone decide to become a member of a donor pool. What story would they tell? Did they volunteer? Had they been kidnapped and now were so glamoured or addicted to the sensation of vampires feeding that they wouldn’t leave? Then Sookie had a startling thought. What if they couldn’t leave? Were these people really blood slaves? She wondered if this is how she would have ended up if Queen Sophie-Anne or Felipe de Castro had succeeded. As the last person bowed and then retreated Sookie found she couldn’t even keep her Crazy Sookie smile in place.
“Are you ready?” Eric asked. Sookie shook herself out of her reverie and looked up at him. She could tell that what he was really asking was, “Are you done?”
‘Asshole,’ she thought quickly and then pasted a smile back on her face and said, “Of course, your majesty. Whenever you are.”
As Eric stepped them both off the dais, Thalia approached with the were, Shari Decker following her. Shari smiled and said, “I bring greetings from Alcide Herveaux. He congratulates you and says he is happy to know that you would call on him at this time.”
Sookie smiled and managed to detach her hand from Eric’s without looking too much like they were fighting. “As a Friend of the Pack it was natural that I would look to the Pack master. As I have protected, so I look to the Pack to protect.” As Sookie finished the expected words Shari bowed and then straightened up again. “As you may know, my brother, Jason, is a were panther. I hear that the Longtooth Pack and the panthers in Hotshot hunt together from time to time.”
Shari nodded. “It hasn’t happened often but we have had two outings now.” She shrugged. “We have different habits, but at least no one’s been hurt.”
Sookie tried not to think about that too much. “Do you know my brother, Jason?” she asked.
“I do,” the were answered. “He’s good people and funny. He was real helpful the first time we were together. He had a couple stories that got us laughing so hard! Well, it broke the ice. Alcide is considering naming him a Friend of the Pack too. Just so you know.”
Sookie’s genuine smile returned. “I think that would mean a lot to him.” When Shari smiled Sookie had to ask, “Are you related to Maria-Starr Cooper? I swear you look just like her.”
“I’m her cousin,” Shari said. Then she gave Sookie a warm and straightforward look. “I just want you to know that I volunteered for this. I will always be grateful to you for bringing in your friends and figuring out what happened to MarStar.”
Sookie nodded. She remembered that night in Maria-Starr’s apartment with Octavia and Amelia. Sookie had asked the witches to conduct an ectoplasmic reconstruction to determine who had killed the young woman. For Sookie, it had signaled the beginning of the Were War. Sookie shook her head. So many people she knew had died then. And the Fae War had followed fast on its heels.
Eric was still standing next to her but he had started looking around the room, clearly ready to start other conversations. “Go ahead,” Sookie told him. “I know you have a lot of folks who want to talk with you.”
Eric looked at her like he was angry, and then he schooled his face and smiled. ‘Of course, Sookie. I was only waiting as a courtesy,” and then he walked away toward Pam. Sookie looked up to meet Thalia’s stern gaze and then the small vampire peeled off to shadow Eric.
Shari shrugged and huffed a little. “Touchy, aren’t they?”
Sookie gave the were a sharp look. “Vampires are proud and with good reason.”
Shari looked down and then nodded her head. “Of course. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.” Sookie listened hard. She could see the red snarl in the woman’s head and then, suddenly the snarl seemed to part; tendrils of web snapping back and the woman’s thoughts were open. She was tentative about this assignment. Alcide had warned her that she couldn’t trust anything Sookie said. He told her that the telepath would run hot and then cold; that she was erratic and had a temper. He told her that even if it seemed like Sookie liked her, Shari should always remember that Sookie was a corpse lover first and foremost.
The regret Sookie felt almost offset the surprise of having the were’s thoughts so clear. She could understand why Alcide might feel that way about her but at the same time she knew that Alcide had caused many of the misunderstandings between them himself. He was someone who thought well of himself and had a heavy hand when using people to serve the needs of his Pack. Sookie remembered the last time he had offered to be a couple. His motivation had been to gain use of her skills and not because of who she was or any real feeling between them.
As Sookie was considering, she got the uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching her; it was that creeping feeling at the back of her neck. She turned to see Mr. Cataliades staring, his eyes wide. There was something in the way he looked that had her excuse herself and walk towards him. As she arrived he reached for her hand and then, without warning, he was in her head. He asked her silently if she could hear him. When she nodded, he asked her if she was now able to read weres.
Sookie nodded. ‘Try another one,’ Mr. Cataliades directed her silently. Sookie looked around the room until she saw Titus standing near the door. She took a deep breath and reached out with her mind. He seemed far away.
“Too far,” she said out loud. Together they walked toward the guard and when Sookie was about ten feet away she heard him. He was thinking about his family and hoping the extra guests would mean extra money in his paycheck. He was happy he didn’t live on premises and appreciated night hours so he could see his kids during the day. He was thinking that this group of vampires seemed a lot better than the last group, but with vampires you never could tell. He hoped that he wouldn’t be stuck disposing of bodies like he had in past. Sookie’s eyes became round and she found her heart racing. Beside her the demon lawyer was beaming. Sookie looked up and met Eric’s look. His forehead was wrinkled and he looked worried. She made herself calm down, smiled and shook her head. She waited until he turned back to continue his conversation.
“This is most agreeable,” Mr. Cataliades said. “Most agreeable.”
Sookie looked directly at him and said, “Why Mr. C., did you know that there is a lovely little garden on this floor? I’d love to show it to you.” In her head she thought at him, ‘We can’t discuss this here. Too many ears.’
Mr. Cataliades bowed and when she walked towards the door he followed her. Sookie remembered the turns and they walked down the short hallway to the wooden door. The door opened to soft lights highlighting the trees. Most of these lights were on the ground and shone up, giving the room a dreamy, jungle-like atmosphere. Sookie walked toward the fountain and then stopped. She could hear someone panting and moaning. Without thinking she walked toward the sound and found Thomas and Thierry. They had Sonder between them and they were both feeding. The young woman’s hand was in Thierry’s pants and Thomas had bared one of her breasts. Sookie dipped into Sonder’s head and could tell at once that she’d been glamoured.
“You can stop right now,” Sookie said. “I don’t think she’s in her right mind. You may think this is fun and games but it isn’t right. We have donors here who would be happy to help y’all.” Sookie could feel the lawyer step up behind her.
Thierry’s eyes looked challenging as he lifted his head, but then he looked amused. He leaned forward and licked the marks on the girl’s neck, healing the wounds. Then he removed her hand from his crotch and pulled himself together. Thomas’ reaction was swifter. “I apologize, Mistress,” he said. “A mistake.” He looked at the woman and said, “You will run to your room and change your shirt. You were in such a hurry to find Twy you spilled something on yourself and you will need to throw your shirt away. You were almost in the ballroom when it happened. Thankfully you weren’t seen and everything will be fine.” When the woman’s hands drifted over her blouse and she had righted herself, Thomas said, “You are running a little late. You should find Twy before she comes looking for you. It’s been such a good night. No reason to mar it by angering her.” Sonder nodded blankly and then hurried towards the door.
Once the woman had left, Thomas bowed, “Again, apologies Mistress.”
“Yes, Mistress” Thierry said behind him. “A misunderstanding.” They turned and followed Sonder out the door.
As they walked into the corridor, Thierry turned to Thomas. “I can’t believe you would toady to that. I respect Northman; who wouldn’t? But I do not understand the attraction of the blood bag. Did you hear her earlier? Her brother is two-natured? I can’t imagine soiling myself with one of those.”
“She is not a shifter,” Thomas declared. “I’m not sure exactly what she is. I do know she is a skilled telepath; I saw it in Louisville. Whatever she is, she had Isaiah ready to bond with her.”
Thierry’s eyebrows lifted. “The original ice man? “ Then Thierry’s eyes turned considering. “Perhaps she is a witch. Of course you would know, but are you sure Kentucky wasn’t thinking about making her his companion? A consort; like Northman proposes?”
Thomas shook his head. “I’m sure. He had me make calls to his attorney. He was ready to set her beside him.” When Thierry’s face kept its skeptical look, Thomas continued, “Crowe was calling her Princess in Minnesota and the rumor was that the title was real. I’m not sure what she is. Karin was there. She didn’t say, but she wasn’t herself”
Thierry hooted. “By the gods, you are still mooning over ‘Kill Me Karin’? What is wrong with you? Where is the carefree hell raiser I knew in New York? Please tell me you haven’t found some religious cause and are going to become tiresome and colorless. I might have to stake myself to end the boredom!”
“Go fuck yourself,” Thomas snarled. “You wouldn’t know a religious cause if it came out and bit you in the balls. You are a worthless sack of shit and I don’t know why Misha ever let you live past your first three hundred years.”
“Because I sing,” Thierry laughed. “And I can run the bridges like no one else.”
Thomas smiled fiercely and then landed a sucker punch on the taller vampire. Thierry snarled and launched himself at Thomas and there was a flurry as the two threw punches and bit at each other in the way of barely civilized brothers. Finally Thierry roared, “Okay, okay. Not the eyes. And you’ve ripped my favorite shirt!”
Thomas got off him and growled, “You deserved it. You’re an ass,” and he landed one more kick.
“True,” Thierry said with a smirk. “But a damn sexy one. What’s say we go find ourselves another blood bag to share.”
“Only if I get tops,” Thomas growled.
“I have a better idea. We’ll put her on her knees and we’ll play round robin.”
“Done!” Thomas yelled. “First one there gets to choose,” and he took off for the stairway that led to the donor area.
When the vampires left Sookie turned to Mr. Cataliades. “I sure hope Eric chose well with those two,” she sighed. Shaking her head, Sookie walked further into the garden and sat down on a bench. Mr. Cataliades took a seat across from her. Sookie’s curiosity shone in her eyes. “You seem pretty happy about all this new activity in my head. Why do you think I can hear weres so much better now?” she asked.
“I believe that you continue to grow into your gifts,” Mr. Cataliades said. “It happens this way sometimes. You reach a certain physical age and then there is a precipitating event; a trigger as it were. It could be that the regular doses of Mr. Northman’s blood have served to act as that trigger.” Sookie blushed but Mr. Cataliades just tutted and smiled. “Don’t be embarrassed. You are together and it is perfectly normal for you to partake.” Then the demon’s eyes narrowed. “Of course your lack of bonding is unusual and I feel it only right to warn you that it is becoming a source of gossip.”
Sookie shook her head a little. ‘When have I not been a source of gossip?’ she asked herself. All her life she had been the girl that other little girls talked about behind their hands and groups laughed about once she had passed by. She was used to matrons cutting their eyes at her and talking about her in voices too high to ignore but too low to confront. In most ways Sookie would have been surprised if she wasn’t being gossiped about. It was just part of how she lived every day. Instead the telepath chose to focus on the part she considered more important.
“I don’t get it,” Sookie stated, and looked down at her hands. “When Eric and I bonded before we really hadn’t exchanged blood often. Goodness knows we do a fair sight more exchanging now. But this time? It just isn’t there. I don’t feel him in my head.” Sookie glanced up at the attorney and her look was a little rueful. “Truth be told? I can’t say that I miss it. I was never sure what was me and what was him.” She sighed as she thought back on that time.
“There would be days I’d be angry with everyone, or sad. Or… I don’t know. Not myself. Now, when I look back I don’t think it was me. I think I was feeling what Eric was going through with his maker and Victor and Felipe.” Sookie felt a smile threatening and she allowed it to come; sad and lop-sided. “His life was shit and because he was miserable it made me feel miserable too.” Sookie looked back down at her hands and she realized she had been clenching and unclenching her fingers. “I guess I’m just not sure I want to go back to that, so I haven’t exactly been crying buckets of tears over no bond.”
Mr. Cataliades nodded. “I can understand how it would have been confusing. You were not prepared. It was a mistake on Northman’s part.”
“Well, I will tell you that at the time it wasn’t like there were a lot of choices. It was bond with Eric or have Andre force me. Eric seemed best.”
“In view of where we are sitting,” Mr. Cataliades swept his hand to take in the beautiful room, “and Mr. Northman announcing you as his intended, I would agree,” Mr. Cataliades stated. “But his not making time to educate you after what happened in Rhodes showed rather poor judgment and a lack of regard for your well-being in my opinion. It has been one of the reasons that I have made clear to both of you that I represent your interests first.” When Sookie looked like she was going to protest he continued, “Of course I will represent you both when your interests are aligned.” He gave her a direct look. “But understand that I will always put you first. It is the pledge I made my dearest friend and I will honor it all the days of my life.” And then Mr. Cataliades half stood, lifted Sookie’s hand and kissed the back of it in a courtly manner. When he reseated himself he smiled broadly.
“As for why the bond has not reformed, I suspect it is because of your reluctance. The emergence of your gifts is evidence that the essential spark you carry is becoming more prominent. It will protect you; in particular it will fend off any attempts to interfere with your will. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that anything that does happen will be as you wish.”
“Cheese and rice, Desmond! What does that mean?”
“It means that until you truly wish for a bond, it will not be able to form.” Mr. Cataliades sat back and waited for Sookie to process what she had just heard.
Sookie nibbled her lower lip and considered. “So, no one is going to be able to back me into some hallway and force me into becoming their slave?”
The attorney beamed. “Exactly so! It is a natural progression for you. Your resistance to glamouring was the first hint; your ability in its infancy. Now that you are maturing your abilities in this area are maturing as well.”
“Eric told me that he didn’t think that I could be turned,” Sookie blurted out.
Mr. Cataliades expression froze and his eyes looked hard. “How did this come up Sookie? Did you have the impression Mr. Northman was trying to turn you?”
Sookie could see the change in the lawyer and she felt a calm wash over her. Somewhere in the back of her head she could almost hear a voice say, ‘Be careful. Be ready to fight.’ Sookie kept her voice level and made sure she was smiling. “Just the opposite. He was worried. Eric promised never to try and turn me; even if I’m in mortal danger. Not unless I ask for it.” Sookie remembered the way Eric had looked at her; the sincerity in his eyes as he had apologized for that time before Oklahoma when they were fighting and everything was falling apart. Sookie nodded. “He promised and I believe him.”
Mr. Cataliades allowed his shoulders to relax a bit. “That is good. With the spark asserting itself any attempt to make you vampire would not be likely to succeed if you do not wish it. The spark will resist. It will be like a new energy within you; protecting you and instructing you.”
“Oh great!” Sookie said. “Another bond?”
“No, no, my dear. Think of it as a conscience. It is more like that. Instructional. Supporting.”
Sookie found herself asking the question that had been bouncing around in the back of head ever since Pam had mentioned it. “Do you think now I’m immortal? Like Niall?”
“Niall is not immortal, Miss Stackhouse,” Mr. Cataliades said gently. “In fact he is now very old and the end of his time draws closer.” When Sookie made a noise the attorney waved his hand gently. “Don’t worry. He is not likely to pass anytime too soon. But the reality is that his end is closer now than his beginning.” The demon smiled. “But you asked about yourself. And I believe that you have manifested the fae’s gift for living at a different pace in this world.”
Sookie huffed. “Okay, that doesn’t make sense either,” she said as she shook her head.
“It really has to do with the realms of the fae; the dimensions in which they are able to live,” Mr. Cataliades explained. “In the fae realm time moves differently. A minute there is months here. Because of this the lifespan of the fae seems to go on forever. But in truth it is just the difference in how time moves from their native place to here.” Mr. Cataliades’ eyebrows lifted in question. “Does that make sense to you?”
Sookie nodded. “I guess. So you’re saying that because I’m more fae my body will age like I’m living there instead of here?”
“Exactly!” the attorney beamed. “You have captured it!”
As Mr. Cataliades leaned back there was the sound of the door opening. In a motion that was too fast to follow Thalia was in front of them. “Here you are! I was about to send guards out looking for you. You have been missed and the Viking is worrying.” The dark vampire was almost smiling as if the thought of Eric being uncomfortable was amusing.
Sookie smiled. “Well, I am sorry. I didn’t think we’d be gone this long.” She rose and smiled warmly at Mr. Cataliades. “Thank you Desmond. I appreciate you telling me about this.” As they started walking forward, Thalia trailing them, Sookie turned her head and asked, “Do you think it would be a good idea for me to make an appointment with Dr. Ludwig?”
“Amy?” The attorney shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt. She has a great deal of knowledge about fae biology and physiology. She may be able to help you answer any questions you have.”
As they walked down the corridor towards the ballroom Sookie found she had a great many questions. And she found herself thinking down the list of things that she had learned about herself or her situation that Eric seemed to know something about but had not thought to share. Sookie could feel her exhaustion kicking in, but she also felt a new determination; that backbone she had found with Twy this morning. There were things that needed doing and Sookie knew that it was in doing that she found her best purpose.
No sooner had they walked into the ballroom than Pam was next to her, hissing in her ear. “Why did you leave? Don’t you know how difficult he becomes when you are not here? “
“Thanks Pam,” Sookie said sarcastically. “Appreciate your concern.” Sookie spotted Eric and headed towards him. When he turned towards her and she saw the way his shoulders seemed to relax just a little she felt guilty. She gave him her brightest smile. “I am sorry I took so long. I was speaking with Mr. Cataliades about tomorrow.”
This new Eric didn’t put his arm around her and pull her into him the way that the Jackson Eric would have. He didn’t kiss her head or rumble in that special way that sent her comfort. But there was something in how his stance shifted towards her that let her know that he accepted what she said; that he was happy she had returned.
Eric picked back up with his conversation. Rubio and Indira stood by him. Pam and Isabelle stood just a little off to the side. Maxwell was next to him and appeared to be taking notes. “I’m sorry for the timelines, but we need to get a handle on the conditions as quickly as possible. I have no idea how to shift assets or pull capital to help secure your Areas until I understand what is needed. Maxwell will get the spreadsheets updated and forwarded to each of you. I need to know financials, both annual position and operating position within seven days. You also need to send me a description of top assets and personnel for your Area. Seven days. Once we have the snapshot we can start to determine some short term plans.” Eric looked around, a slight scowl on his face. Sookie knew he was looking for Thomas and Thierry, his missing sheriffs.
“Indira,” he looked at the new Area 5 sheriff. “You are in the best position. Can you lend Rubio a hand? To the best of my knowledge his Area has not had direct supervision in close to ten years. He will need help.” Indira bowed and Rubio smiled at her.
Pam was also looking put out. “Isabelle and I will focus on her area. I think there was a base for the former sheriff, but who knows what shape it’s in. The palace in Little Rock was decent but it’s pretty clear that Rita was in over her head.” Eric nodded. He knew that Pam shared his irritation. He could feel it rolling through her.
Eric took one last look at the door to the hallway. “Well, I know that with their vast experience, Thomas and Thierry won’t need any help in pulling together their reports. In fact,” Eric smiled, “I believe that they should be able to handle the immediate needs and provide me a full inventory of their physical assets in the allotted time.” He turned to Pam. “Don’t you agree, Regent?”
Pam smiled, her fangs descended. “Obviously they are comfortable or they wouldn’t have left so early,” Pam confirmed.
Eric turned to Max. “You’ll be distributing those minutes tonight?” Max nodded. The sheriffs looked grim. The kind of time that kind of physical counting would require would condemn both vampires to spending every waking hour in work between now and then. They all received the message; ‘Disrespect the King’s leadership at your peril.’
Once Eric finished, Sookie caught his attention by laying her hand on his arm. “Where did Russell and Bartlett go?” she asked.
“The kings have been traveling apart for some time. They wished to retire to become reacquainted,” Eric told her. When she smiled his returning smile transformed into a more interested look. Sookie purposely turned to Thalia.
“When you get a minute I’d like to read the guards. I kind of heard something earlier that worried me a little and I wanted to let you know about it,” she told Thalia.
Thalia motioned to an area nearer the ‘thrones’ that had been used earlier in the night. Once they had moved aside, Sookie turned towards her friend. “Don’t know why we moved,” she said. “They can all hear us anyway.”
Thalia nodded. “It’s a matter of form,” she shrugged.
Sookie shrugged in return and said, “There were two guards watching us this morning; Charles and Stuart. I could tell that Stuart was thinking that there might be some money to be made by selling news about us.” Sookie had the impression it had been more but she didn’t want to be the one to cause another death in the palace. “I didn’t get a really clear read but I’d feel better if he wasn’t too close to Eric until there’s a chance to really listen to him.”
Thalia looked at Sookie rather sharply. “I thought you had problems reading weres,” she said.
“I’ve been practicing,” Sookie shot right back. “I’m getting better.” Thalia gave her a hard look but didn’t press the issue. Sookie turned back. She could tell just by how everyone was standing that every word had been heard. As she reached Eric a large yawn escaped her. Eric turned to her and fixed her with a look that said that King Eric was gone and now nothing else in the room existed for him but her. Sookie found she couldn’t help but smile.
“You are tired. It has been a grueling day for you.” He turned to Pam. “I will return later tonight. I will expect that you will work with the sheriffs to craft a plan of action and establish timelines. I look forward to reviewing it when I return.” Pam nodded and then bowed. The sheriffs around her followed suit.
Eric put his arm around Sookie then, but as they were turning the telepath remembered something. She turned back so she could speak with Maxwell. “When you pull together the finances would you set aside the house accounts? I’ll be back night after tomorrow and I’d like to start digging through them. And would you ask Devrah to make arrangements for the staff to be available for screening? I don’t want anyone in these walls that can’t be trusted.”
Maxwell smiled and bowed deeply. “It will be my pleasure Mistress,” he said.
From behind her Eric said, “Sookie!” She turned and placed her hand in his outstretched one. He pulled her closer and hooked her arm through his elbow. “Come,” he said, his voice deep and gravelly, “it is time.”
Sookie and Eric walked arm in arm to the elevator that would carry them to the fourth floor. Eric had told her that this particular lift was meant to be used exclusively for them and any special guests who would be housed on the fourth floor. There was a guard on duty at all times.
Sookie found herself giggling as they walked into the fancy car and the guard closed the old fashioned grill gate. She remembered a trip to a department store when she was really little. There had been an old elevator like this with a person who ran it and called out the floors. Her mother had been there and Sookie had heard her call it ‘kitsch.’ Now Sookie knew what that meant. Then she had thought it meant ‘special.’ Eric snuggled her against him and she found herself giggling, and she realized she was exhausted. Sookie took a deep breath and just let herself relax. As she closed her eyes she could feel ‘her’ Eric leaning down and kissing her head, like he had in Jackson. In that instant all was right with the world again. He had returned from his time as king and business and being important, and he was wrapped around her as she was around him and they were together.
The elevator came to a stop and as the guard opened the gate Eric swept her up into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to their rooms. Titus was waiting for them and he opened the door with a smile.
“Good night,” Eric said.
“Good night, your majesty; mistress,” Titus called and he shut the door behind them. Eric carried Sookie to the bedroom and laid her gently down. He leaned over her and kissed her. Sookie stretched beneath him and then laced her arms up to encircle her lover, drawing him further into her.
“We really should talk, älskare,” he murmured against her lips.
“Do you know that’s the first time you called me that since we arrived?” Sookie asked him.
Eric pulled back a little. Sookie could see his mind racing back through his perfect memory. “No,” Eric said. “I called you my älskare when we arrived.”
“Yeah, like I said,” Sookie smiled and she wiggled a little against him. “Aren’t you hungry?” she asked.
“Yes,” Eric whispered and he drew his fingertips over her forehead and brushed her hair across the pillow. “I am hungry for you. I wish to bury myself in you and forget that I will wake up a second time without you. I find the idea of you leaving here… uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable?” Sookie asked as she stroked the side of his neck and drew her fingers inside the collar of his shirt.
“I do not like it,” he said with a sigh. Eric smoothed open buttons and zippers. He drew pants down legs and undressed himself in a slow, unhurried way. “I wish to know that you are here; that you are always here,” he purred. “I do not like the idea of sharing even your conversation with anyone else.”
“Greedy vampire,” Sookie laughed.
“Yes,” Eric sighed. “Greedy and wanting,” and he leaned down to capture her mouth. Their tongues explored slowly. Sookie pulled back from him just a little so she could stroke Eric’s fangs and then she turned her head so she could suck them. She knew his eyes were rolling back and he moaned. He parted his lips, allowing her to suck one fully into her mouth, the other fang grazing the plane of her cheek. She pierced her tongue and allowed the blood to pool. Eric stirred above her. She knew he could scent the blood and he brought his mouth down upon her, drawing her tongue into his mouth, sucking rhythmically and mimicking that motion with his fingers that now moved within her.
Sookie found that within minutes she was cumming, the wave of sensation roaring in her ears. She arched up, driving Eric’s fingers within her and moaned into his mouth. The Viking chuckled above her and Sookie cocked her eye at him as she panted, “You are pretty pleased with yourself.”
“It’s good to be king,” Eric smiled and then he licked his fingers, sucking in a way that let her know he enjoyed her taste. “You are beautiful, Sookie,” he told her. “I love to watch you come apart for me.”
Sookie laid her hand against his cool cheek. “Because you know that I’m yours?” she asked.
Eric sat up and grabbed her hand. He kissed her open palm then looked at her. His eyes now were fierce. “You are mine,” he said. “You are mine and I will never give you up.”
There was something in the way he said it; the look in his eye. Sookie rolled toward the bed stand and opened the drawer, pulled out the bottle of lube and then turned back to him. “I think someone needs a little reminding of how things stand in this room,” she told him. Sookie pushed Eric until he was half reclining against the headboard then she positioned herself between his legs. She leaned over and started kissing his chest. Sookie rubbed her cheeks and her nose across Eric’s chest and shoulders, knowing she was leaving a scent trail that enhanced the experience for him. She ran her teeth over his nipples and then bit and pulled at each, his hissing her reward. She opened the lube and poured some in her hands, warming it between her palms while she continued using her teeth and tongue on the long lines of his abdomen. Sookie placed her hands beneath his cock and started massaging the area behind his balls. He slid down a little farther and spread his legs allowing her better access, his cock stiffening in anticipation. Sookie probed at Eric’s rosebud, a gentle pressure and then retreat. She squirted more lube into her hand and continued to massage and press while lowering her head to his straining cock. He hissed above her and arched a little then flipped her hair to one side. She looked up to see him watching her, his mouth open and his fangs descended.
As she sucked hard on his head her finger slid into him and she slowly moved side to side, finding the mass that was his prostate. She pressed and then sucked, alternating movements. Eric’s head fell back and his moans became louder. Sookie hollowed her cheeks and moved her head up and down, while applying more pressure. Eric started to move and then he roared, arching into her, his muscles gripping her finger tightly; his balls tightening as they lay on her wrist. He came in her mouth, his essence shooting almost too quickly to swallow. Sookie could feel his body completely relax; his eyes were unfocused.
Sookie licked the length of him one last time as she freed herself and then crawled forward to snuggle into his body. Eric looked at her without moving his head. He didn’t wrap his arms around her; he seemed to have lost command of his body. “Well, that’s settled,” Sookie told him. “You can forget all that ‘mine’ business, buster. I own you and don’t you forget it.” Then she kissed his shoulder.
Eric chuckled in an almost helpless way. “I should tell you I regret teaching you that trick but I would miss it too much if you ever stopped.” Eric arched his back then and slid down onto the bed pulling the telepath with him and wrapping her up. Once she settled, Eric scratched her scalp a little in the way he knew she liked. Then he landed a brief kiss on her forehead and rumbled a bit.
Sookie sighed against him. “What are you thinking about?” she asked.
“What makes you say that?” he asked in return and he pulled her head back a little so he could look in her eyes.
“That sound. When you make that sound I know you’re thinking about something,” Sookie told him and she pulled her head from his hand and settled herself on his chest, her fingers gently plucking the hair that led from his navel to his cock; his happy trail.
Eric inhaled deeply and held it in. Sookie knew he was smelling their mingled essences. It was pleasurable for him. As he released the air he said, “You do own me when we are here. I am yours in any way you choose.” Then he stilled and Sookie stilled too. “But Sookie..”
“Be careful, Eric,” Sookie said, not moving from her position.
“But Sookie,” he continued. “When we are out there it must not look like we are not one. It can’t look like you are questioning me.”
Sookie felt her jaw clench. “This is about my having the donors pledge to you?”
“I told you it wasn’t customary but you had to make a point. It looked bad.”
Sookie could feel her growing irritation. ‘Why can’t he understand?’ she thought. She took a deep breath and then tried to explain in her most calm voice. “I told you why it was important. Those people have access to you every day. They are there when you are at your most vulnerable. How could you not have them pledge?” Sookie raised herself on her elbow and looked up at Eric. Eric put his arm under his head.
“You don’t understand. It is like asking cows to pledge their fealty because you eat the steak they provide. They are donors. They have a purpose here like a chair or a desk.”
“You can’t mean that,” Sookie exclaimed. “Eric! They are people.”
“They are a food source. Nothing more. They are here and they are cared for. They provide a service and when they can no longer provide that service they are removed.” Eric rolled his eyes as he watched Sookie’s face. “So we are back to this again!” he exclaimed. “You say you accept vampires. You say you love me. But you don’t really accept what we are; who we are. We feed on human blood. You know this.”
Sookie sat up, “Well, Eric; Denny? That male food source you’re tapping every night? He’s starting to develop feelings for you; real feelings. He’s thinking that because you go to him every time that you’re fond of him too.”
“You are too soft, Sookie. You would see things where nothing exists.” Eric’s face was closed.
“I heard it, Eric. You know I can hear people. Don’t you try to tell me what I hear and don’t hear!”
“There is no talking with you about this. You do not understand. This is our way. There is nothing more to discuss.” Eric settled back and clenched his jaw in a way that told her the subject was closed.
“So, that’s how it is?” she asked. She hated that her voice sounded small. “I can have an opinion except when it comes to one of these vampire things, and then what I think doesn’t count?”
“I should not have mentioned anything. You are tired. This was not a good time to talk about what must be,” Eric huffed. “Now you will be going to Shreveport. But I know you Sookie Stackhouse. I know you like I know myself. You will go to Bon Temps. You will talk with your friends and your family. You will tell them how hard things are here; how vampires are bad. And they will agree with you. They will tell you how lucky you were to have escaped the shifter and they will question why you would trade one bad thing for another.” Sookie felt herself still as she heard what might have been pain in Eric’s voice. “They will tell you that you are wrong to choose a dead man; a cold ass. Is that not what they call me? And you will listen to them like you always do.”
Sookie put her hand on Eric’s chest and waited until he met her eyes. “No, Eric. You’re wrong. Not about Bon Temps. You’re right about that. I want to see Jason and I want to visit my Gran. I texted Jason and I am staying at his house tomorrow night.” Eric’s mouth twisted and he shook his head. “But you are wrong about the rest of it. For one thing, Jason likes you.”
Eric rolled his eyes and made a noise. He started to roll away but Sookie launched herself on him to stop his moving. “Eric! I mean it! When I was at Sanctum, Jason came to visit me. And you know what he said? He asked me why I chose Sam over you. He told me he thought you were the better choice. He still thinks that.”
“I don’t like your brother,” Eric huffed. When Sookie started to say something Eric jumped in, “I do not think that he treats you correctly. He did not take care of you. He left you too much alone. He is the elder. He should have watched over you.”
Sookie could feel herself relax. “You’re right,” she told him. “And what’s more, Jason knows you’re right too. But he’s trying to do right by me now. And he’s kind of pleased that we’re back together. So don’t be thinking that all humans are like Alcide.”
Eric looked at Sookie again. “And what about the witch?”
“Amelia?” Sookie nodded. “You’re right. Amelia was a bad friend to me and I allowed myself to be influenced by her. But Eric,” and Sookie squirmed up Eric’s body until her chin was just below his, “I am not going to change my mind about this; about us. I am not going to leave you. Really.”
“You are not comfortable,” he said and he poked her in the ribs, but then he sobered and continued in a more serious way. . “Truly, your elbows are sharp. You are too bony. Make sure you eat much at your brother’s house. It is his duty to feed you well.”
Sookie smirked, turned her head and rested it on her Viking’s silent chest. Eric lifted her slightly and turned her so he could spoon around her. As she lay still, waiting for sleep to come Eric started making his rumbling noise again. “No more thinking, Northman,” she mumbled, and she meant it.