Author’s Note: Thank you to all my readers. I am grateful for your interest and your kind words. It has been a banner week as I am releasing both this chapter and a ‘Swimming’ short story (Where It Began). My thanks to both Breathesgirl and Ms Buffy whose expert advice and collaborative feedback inspires (and prods) me to want to become a better writer.
Nautical Note: Finding the air refers to being on the ocean on a flat sea surface in a very light breeze. You literally look across the surface for ripples that signify a pocket of air and gently aim the boat in that direction. Once you hit that little pocket you crank in the sails, gain as much momentum as you can and head for the next pocket of air that is on the same relative heading you need to travel. If you miss the air, you can lose all momentum and find yourself stuck.
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.
“It’s promising,” Max said from behind her. “The counts are higher than we anticipated. My only concern is finding out that a certain percentage of vampires never registered. I understand that thrill of the hunt, but I don’t understand the need to create. There are so many and most are so young. It appears to be something that needs looking into.”
Pam nodded. “Although Thomas said they all seemed well-mannered. I don’t think any of them were made and abandoned. There’s also nothing in the crime stats to suggest we have a rogue vampire problem here.”
Max nodded. Then he looked toward the hall. “You expect him soon?” he asked.
Pam laughed. “Hardly! The Princess is home tonight. I’m waiting for the message that he won’t be coming down at all!”
Max shook his head. “I don’t know whether to be jealous or appalled. We could be so much further along if our king spent more time in the office and less time between her legs.” Pam smirked and Max shrugged. “Just saying.”
Pam nodded. “I’m not agreeing with you. A happy Eric is a productive Eric, and knowing that his Princess is here and waiting keeps him more productive than at other times. Still,” Pam poked Max in the shoulder, “I’ll be happy when they stop being newlyweds and start becoming more settled.”
Max shook his head. “And you think that will happen… when?”
Pam smiled ruefully. “In another hundred years or so.”
Sookie walked with purpose down the corridor that led to their suite. He would be rising within a half hour. She didn’t know how she knew, she just did. She barely spared a ‘Hiya’ for Charles and James. Charles smiled and opened the door just in time for Sookie to breeze through.
As he closed the door behind her, catching a glance of her kicking off shoes and grabbing the bottom of her shirt, he grinned at James.
“What?” James asked.
Charles reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a set of bright orange ear plugs. “Here,” he said. “You may want to take these.”
“Are we shooting?” James asked.
“No,” Charles smirked. “It’s better than standing here with wood for the next couple hours.” When James didn’t look any more enlightened, Charles gestured toward the closed doors with his chin. “They’re loud,” he said. James’ eyes widened and then he laughed as he reached for the plugs.
Sookie found herself giggling as she stripped off her clothes and walked through to the bathroom suite. “I’m as bad as Eric!” she thought, but she was also aware that time was not on her side. “Why didn’t I get my butt up those stairs earlier?” she scolded herself. She knew she wasn’t exactly dirty but she also knew her hair held all the scents of the past days and there was no way she had time to wash and dry her hair in thirty minutes. Sookie thought about getting into bed with her hair in wet snakes around them and shuddered.
‘New plan,’ she thought and she turned to the huge bathtub and started running the water. She found light lemongrass oil and poured it in. Once she was sure that the temperature was right she left the tub water running, walked over to the shower and turned that on too. She stepped under the spray and washed everything. She dried enough to be able to walk back to the mirror. She looked at the woman in the reflection and liked what she saw. Sookie twisted her wet hair up onto her head and then she put on some earrings she knew Eric liked. She picked up the bottle of scent he had purchased for her. She didn’t wear it often. It smelled complex, expensive, and she didn’t feel right wearing it for every day, but tonight? She wanted him to find her mysterious and alluring. She wanted him to possess her because she sure intended on possessing him.
A quick look around had Sookie deciding she needed candles so she ran back through the bedroom and into the sitting room. There were a couple of candlesticks there and she grabbed them both and a book of matches and then back into the bathroom she ran. She tried the candles in a couple places and turned off first all the lights, and then all but the light near the mirror. “Not like total dark will bother you,” she said aloud to her sleeping vampire, “but I’d like to enjoy the show too!” Once she was satisfied, Sookie crawled into the tub and positioned herself at the end furthest from the door and waited.
She didn’t have to wait long. Eric appeared like a great shadow in the door and she saw his eyes, dark in his shining face. “I missed you Lover,” he purred and Sookie rubbed her thighs together in anticipation. He stalked into the room, looking at her first from one angle and then turning his body to look at her from the opposite angle. “You seem to be bathing. Is this a solo activity?” he asked.
“Well,” Sookie said in a slow voice, “I didn’t think you’d be up so soon. I thought I’d have time to finish washing. I’ll just get out of the tub now and you can have the bath to yourself.”
Sookie could see Eric’s fangs descend. It was a game they played. She would try to run now and he would have the fun of chasing her. With the oil she knew she would be slippery, and that would add to the enjoyment. Sookie stood up, allowing water to run over her breasts and down her thighs. Eric moved closer, his head at an angle as he enjoyed the way her nipples puckered with the temperature change. “You look chilly,” he said. “Perhaps I should help warm you.”
“Oh,” Sookie countered. “That’s okay. I can do it myself. No need to bother.” All the while she inched away from him, drawing him more toward her and further from the door. She made a point of drawing her hand around her breast, lifting it just a bit. “Besides, I’m not that cold. See?” Then she blew across her breast causing her nipple to stand even more erect.
“You are killing me,” Eric hissed.
“Charmer!” Sookie purred in return, and then she took off. She ran as fleetly as she could, laughing and vaulting over the bed. She was almost to the other side when he grabbed her ankle causing her to fall belly-down.
Eric dragged her back by her foot and before she could even start to squirm, he forced his nose between her legs and started to lick. He lifted her and forced two pillows under her hips, and then used his hands to spread her further. Sookie could feel the drag of his fangs as he forced his tongue into her. He was making that purring sound but it was hard to hear over her moaning. “Eric, please!” she begged, but he just held her tighter using his tongue and teeth to drive her crazy.
“Reach down and touch yourself,” he hissed and she snaked her hand down so that she could rub her clit. She was competing with his nose and the combination of pressure and sensation made her walls start to pulse. As she felt the pressure build, he increased the speed with which his tongue was fucking her and she felt herself falling while she called out his name. Sookie could feel him first lapping from her and then turning his head, sinking his fangs into her thigh. The way he was moving she knew he had spent himself on the sheets. As her breath returned to normal, she twisted a little and he released her and dragged the pillows away so that she could roll over. He moved above her, kissing a trail from the crease where her hip met her thigh and then up along the line of muscle that ran beside her navel. He nipped and then sucked the skin under her breast. He continued to inch forward, bringing his mouth firmly over her nipple then and sucked hard. Sookie reached down with her fingers, circling her clit, waiting for his cock to come far enough forward so that she could grasp it and bring him home.
“Tell me you missed me,” Sookie whispered.
“I missed you, Lover,” Eric replied, and then he brought himself fully over her. He raised himself on his elbow and Sookie could see him looking at her, really looking at her. Sookie lifted the hand she had been using to stimulate her clit and painted herself on his fangs. Then she put those fingers in his open mouth. He sucked them, his eyes never leaving hers. When he moved forward again she removed her fingers traced his cheek, and touched his hair.
“Open yourself to me, Sookie” Eric pleaded. “Open to me,” and he pushed himself into her. Sookie knew that it wasn’t her body he was asking for.
She reached for his wrist and bit into it as hard as she could. She drew in his blood while she thought about how much she loved him. She thought about the ache in her chest being like a door and she saw the door open in her mind with Eric standing on the other side. ‘Yes,’ she thought and closed her eyes and drank, and as she drank Eric was with her.
‘Do you feel that?” Eric asked her. He was sponging water down the knee that she had pulled up, but that wasn’t what he was talking about.
“You’re anxious?” she asked.
“No, curious,” he replied. “I’ll try another one.”
They had moved from the bed to the bath, the bond that lay open between them like a great river of feeling and emotion. When it had first manifested, Sookie found herself floating. It was profound. They had made love, yet it was something different, like they were suspended between worlds. When his cock had found the sweet spot within her and his fangs were in her neck suddenly there was nothing else but the endless sensation of their joining. Sookie thought she must have passed out for a little while because she came to herself wrapped in Eric’s arms, not really remembering how she got there.
Now, as she felt what still seemed a little other worldly to her she asked, “Was it like this for you the first time we bonded?”
Eric shook his head. When she looked into his eyes she could see that he was also feeling unbalanced. Sookie closed her eyes and she could feel it, his wonder and his amazement. “I can piece it together better without my eyes. Why is that do you think?” she asked.
“I think that you are so dependent on your sight that your brain is trying to integrate what you see to make sense of what you are feeling,” he offered. “It is distracting you.”
Sookie nodded. It made as much sense as any other explanation she could think of. Then she felt a sliding warmth that caused her nipples to tighten and her walls to pulse. “You’re sending me lust!” she exclaimed, and swatted his hand. He took the opportunity to slide that same hand over her breast.
“It’s true that I am distracted by your nakedness. I think you’re seducing me, Miss Stackhouse.”
“You wish!” Sookie giggled. She could feel him hard against her back, and she found herself wondering about how Eric would feel if she were to get up on her knees and lean over, then she caught herself. “You did that on purpose!” she yelled. “If you think you’re going to push me into having sex with you all the time, you are sadly mistaken, Mr. Northman.”
“That’s King Northman to you,” Eric smirked and kissed her head. He leaned back and pulled her toward him and with that, the need to clench her thighs together lessened. “How did the court date go?” He asked conversationally.
Sookie sighed as she thought about yesterday. “Well, Sam didn’t show up.” Eric snorted. “Yeah, and we have to go back to see if he makes his second appointment next month. Alcide found one of the guards that was watching me, or was supposed to be watching me. Mr. Cataliades is going to talk with him and see if he can give us something to make this go faster.”
Eric stilled behind her. “You saw the Packmaster, then?” he asked carefully, and Sookie could feel both irritation and something else that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “And this Were? This is one of the Weres that Pam was paying?” he continued. Now that Sookie could feel his irritation she could also hear that his voice was a little tighter than it had been before.
“Yes and yes. Eric? Don’t you get any ideas. I want out of the marriage and killing that Were is not likely to make it go any quicker. I can’t imagine he didn’t see or hear something that would make the case that Sam was abusive.” Eric growled and Sookie huffed in return. “Let’s just let Mr. Cataliades do his job. We’ll get a statement and I’ll be free that much sooner.”
Then Sookie stretched a little and wiggled against Eric in a way that had him stretching back. She could feel a wave of contentment. “Of course,” she purred, “If he looks like he won’t help then all bets are off. Hell, for standing by and letting it happen, I might just join you.”
“Fierce!” Eric purred. “I like it,” and he wrung water from the sponge so that it trickled over her breasts.
Sookie leaned back and waited until all she could feel was calm from the vampire. “There’s something else,” she said. “You’ll hear it from Owen so I might as well tell you the whole story myself.” Now she could feel Eric’s shift. It was as if he was bracing himself for really bad news. Sookie sat up and twisted so she could see him. “It’s not terrible! Good grief, do you always assume the worst with me?”
“You are a danger magnet,” Eric said in return. “It’s better to anticipate the worst with you.”
“That is so wrong!” Sookie snapped. “I was just going to tell you I saw Bellenos near the old house.” Eric stilled. His caution and concern ratcheted up. “Jeez, you really don’t trust the Fae, do you?” Sookie humphed.
“Nor should you, Lover. What did he want?”
Sookie found that she was getting increasingly unsettled. The open flow between them was becoming overwhelming, and she actually started to feel a little nauseous. She thought of the door within her, the door in her chest, she closed her eyes and imagined that she was closing it a little. She immediately felt some relief as the intensity of Eric dimmed.
‘What are you doing?” Eric snapped. Sookie opened her eyes and smiled at him. She laid her hand on his cheek and thought as hard as she could about how much she loved this man, how she was everything with him, how they were one. She could feel him calming. “You are manipulating me?” he said, his eyes widening.
“It’s overwhelming for me, Eric. There’s so much.” Sookie sent reassurance through her touch. “I’m turning it down a little, that’s all, and I’m letting you know how I feel about this, about us. If I was truly being manipulative, you’d know, right?” Sookie waited until Eric turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. What she felt now was a kind of resignation. At least, that’s what she thought it might be. “This is like learning you all over again, Eric, kind of like trying to play music. I can hear the notes, but I’m just not sure which ones they are.”
Eric smiled in a calmer way. “It is another adventure for us to share then,” he said and Sookie knew that everything would be okay. She smiled brightly for him, but couldn’t suppress a shiver with the cooling bathwater. “Let’s get you warm,” Eric said in a low voice, and he stood in a single, fluid motion, and then held his hand down for her.
As Sookie took his hand and rose from the tub she felt something different, something alien. It was irritation, but it seemed to be coming from far away. It was then that Sookie realized there was almost a flavor associated with the emotions she was feeling that were not her own, and this newest one was definitely a different flavor than Eric’s. “What was that?” she asked.
Eric’s eyes widened in surprise again. “You can feel Pam?” he asked.
“Well if by that you mean that Pam’s pissed off and that what she feels tastes a little like clove, then yes. I can feel Pam.” When Eric nodded, Sookie asked, “So what’s got her knickers in a twist?”
Eric grabbed a towel and began drying Sookie. Sookie grabbed a towel to return the favor, the whole time watching him. When he brought his eyes back to hers, he looked a like a small boy whose hand had been caught in the cookie jar. “She is thinking that I should be downstairs,” Eric said, and then he shrugged.
Sookie could feel there was something Eric wasn’t saying. “So,” she opened, “What happened here while I was away?”
“Many things,” he said evasively. Then he pulled her toward him and Sookie could feel a certain interest making itself felt again. While there were whole parts of her that wanted to yell, ‘Hell yes!,’ there was another part of her, the grown up part who knew that play should wait.
Sookie pulled back a little and heard herself say, “I think Devrah has dinner set out on the roof. Let’s get dressed. I’d like to hear all about what’s going on.”
Eric’s look became pointed. Now she knew she was feeling his curiosity. “Of course, älskare. And you will tell me about your chat with the Packmaster and the elf.”
Sookie smiled and walked past him into the bedroom. From the large closet she pulled out a pale green sundress. Then she went to her underwear drawer. As she started looking through it to find something pretty she realized that Eric was watching her, or more precisely, watching the choice of garments. She started deliberately holding up choices, making a point to turn them one way or the other as if she couldn’t make up her mind. When she picked up the red lace bra she felt a spike from him and she knew she had made her choice. She grabbed the matching panties and turned, a Cheshire Cat smile on her face. “You are a naughty girl,” Eric stated. Sookie was certain that he wasn’t angry with her one little bit. She took her choices and headed back into the bathroom. “Where are you going?” Eric huffed.
“I can feel everything you’re thinking, buster, and I’d like to have dinner soon. If I start putting this on in front of you, I won’t be eating what Devrah made for me and we both know it.”
Eric grinned, his fangs descending. “Well, if you are to deprive me of my entertainment,” he quipped, “then you should be deprived of something too,” and he hooked the panties from her hand. “Don’t wear any,” he said. “I want to know that you are that close to me.”
Sookie laughed out loud. “You are so bad!” Then Sookie’s eyes fell on the velvet box that sat on Eric’s nightstand. It had been there, in the open since their second night here, like an unasked question. “Well,” Sookie said and walked toward the nightstand. “If I can’t wear my underwear, maybe it’s time I wore something else.” She stopped in front of the table and picked up the box. She could feel his anticipation.
“Permit me,” he said and his voice was husky. Eric walked over to her and she met his eyes. She held up the box and he took it from her. His eyes fell from hers then and he carefully opened the snap top and removed the ring. When his eyes returned to hers she felt the world lay within them. “I love you, Sookie Stackhouse,” he said as he raised the ring to his lips and kissed it. Then Eric took her hand and slid the band of diamonds and ruby home.
“So, the Prince is not so far,” Eric said, his emotions letting her know he was somehow filing that away. He shifted a little more over to his side on the double chaise. He reached for the slice of mango and offered it. Sookie opened her mouth and as he fed her, she licked his fingers.
“Yup, sounds like he’s been keeping tabs,” Sookie agreed.
“I do think you should start practicing every day, but I don’t want you going back to Bon Temps until we have a better understanding with the fairy. I don’t care how good a fighter he is, I don’t want you in Area 5 without guards ready to defend you.”
Sookie was about to protest when she felt something from him, worry. “I know Alcide said there had been trouble. Have you heard anything more?”
Eric told her what he knew, that Indira and Rubio had gone back to investigate the troubles. Sookie told Eric everything she had heard from Alcide, including what little she knew about the attack on the Packmaster. Then she turned toward the Viking and laid her hand over his. “You should know that I’m going to do some Sachem work for the Packs, Eric.”
“What does that mean?” Eric snarled. “The last time the dog tricked you into that you were made ill. What were you thinking? You owe them nothing!”
Sookie felt her temper marching forward. “Well, it’s not your decision to make, Mr. Bossy Pants. I’m a Friend of the Pack and you know how I feel about helping. My brother’s a were and this trouble they’re having affects them all.” Eric was angry and Sookie could feel his disapproval battering at her. Then she could feel that he had picked something up from her and his eyes turned speculative.
“There’s something else, isn’t there Sookie? Something you’re not telling me.” Eric waited, his mouth in a straight line.
“Well, there’s the pot calling the kettle black,” Sookie huffed. When she felt his uncertainty she said, “I mean, you are the king of not telling,” and the quick stab of guilt she felt told her she was right. Sookie sat up and faced him, her legs crisscrossed and her arms crossed too. “Okay King Northman. Time to spill. I figure we have about an hour and I can tell now when you’re holding back, so you better fess up!”
Eric sat up as well. “You are avoiding my question. What are you holding back?” he demanded.
“You don’t get to demand right now!” Sookie snapped. “I’ve been telling you all kinds of things and you haven’t given me anything yet. It’s your turn, and you better make it good!”
“Fine!” Eric snapped. “There are money issues. We are working through them,” and then he sat back and waited.
Sookie shook her head. “You are going to rue the day you bonded with me,” she said in a gentler voice. “I can tell there’s a whole lot more to say on that subject, and Eric? I want to hear it all.” When the Viking started to protest, Sookie laid her hand on his arm and looked into his eyes letting him feel her concern. “Eric? We are one now. What concerns you concerns me. I don’t want to make this a tit for tat or some kind of game. I can tell that you’re troubled. I don’t know if I can help, but if I don’t know what’s going on I’ll never know,” Sookie leaned up and kissed his hard lips. “We’ll never know,” she whispered.
Eric took her hand in his. “Min krigare kvinna,” he said. ”My warrior.” Then Eric looked right at her and Sookie could see the fatigue and stress in his eyes. “It is very bad,” he told her. “There is money, but nothing we can touch now. You would not appreciate the danger of being poor in a vampire world. In my world it is the strong who are rewarded. This lack of money? It is like dropping blood in the ocean. The sharks among us are drawn to weakness. I may be the shortest reigning king in Louisiana history,” and Eric’s smile was sad. “I have placed you in this danger when all I ever wished was to make you safe,” Eric sighed. “I am the most selfish of vampires. I have known all this, and yet I have allowed you to bond with me. I have done you no favors, Lover.”
Sookie reached up and placed her arms around Eric’s neck. She brought her face to him until they were nose to nose. “Eric? You have to know that I won’t survive you. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to be in a world where you weren’t walking,” Sookie felt tears come to her eyes and the truth of her words flowed through the bond that now existed.
The vampire’s arms came around her and he chuckled. “Well, that is good then,” he said, “since it is unlikely that the one who killed me would allow you to live.” Eric took a deep breath and held it in. Sookie could feel that he was calmer and she thought it was her scent that allowed that. “You are known now as Fae. Soon you will be known as having a place with the Weres. The Packs would howl for your release, but no vampire could allow you to continue. At best they would try to turn you, but without sunshine you would not survive. At worst they would kill you outright, thinking you are too strong and too unknown to live,” Eric pulled back and stroked her hair. “I should have sent you away where you could live your life quietly and safely. Now it is too late.”
Sookie smiled up at him. “Silly vampire! Like I’d ever leave you! Still I can’t believe it’s all that doom and gloom. I was going through the household accounts today while you slept and there’s a whole lot of money that isn’t flowing out any more.”
Eric nodded. “We have stopped all the payments from the business accounts as well. Mr. Cataliades will be asked to help in rounding up the rest. Max is trying to hire a forensic accountant to trace what we can.”
Sookie nodded. “I’d imagine there will be a line-up of folks asking for payments.”
“And we won’t know which are legitimate and which aren’t,” Eric replied.
“Well, why not?” Sookie asked. “You just have them go through me. I’ll ask and we’ll know.”
“That might work for humans, but Weres? It’s likely that we will see a number of shifters and others It is our way to steer business toward other supes. Now that will work against us.”
Sookie shrugged and smiled coyly. “You know that other thing you were asking about? Well, turns out now I can read Weres. In fact, I can read them just as well as I can read humans.”
Eric’s eyes widened and his smile broadened. “Well, that is another handy skill, Lover. When did that happen?” Sookie told him about how she had come to realize she had the skill and the conversation she had with Mr. Cataliades. “Do you think that’s possible?” Eric asked. “How would you feel if you were able to read vampires too?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie answered. “I’ve liked having the quiet in my head that vampires give me. You said it yourself. If it was known I could read vampires my life would really be in danger.”
Eric nodded. “However if it were a skill known only to us, it would be valuable.” Then he stroked Sookie’s cheek. “Something for another day,” he said.
“So, how will you know if vampires are cheating you?” Sookie asked. “I won’t be able to read them.”
Eric smiled. “There will be a contract,” he told her. “With vampires, there is always a contract. There will be a witness and with some questioning, the truth will be found.” Eric smiled and Sookie could tell he had no concerns on that score. It put her more at ease.
“So,” Sookie started. “You’ve cut off everyone’s automatic payments. You’re getting a handle on who can deal with funds. You have a start on your taxes flowing to you..”
“Tithes,” Eric corrected.
“Sounds like taxes to me,” Sookie shrugged. “You’ll be getting money from all those folks in about thirty days. I’m cutting off any more payments to folks we don’t recognize from the household end.”
“I’m selling properties and some of my collection,” Eric added. Sookie’s eyes went wide and she knew he felt her stab of alarm, but she plastered her smile in place and nodded.
“I want to start screening staff tonight while you work with the others,” Sookie said. “That includes the donors.” When Eric’s lips thinned out, Sookie added, “The night they pledged? There’s at least one that’s stealing and selling stuff from the palace, and there’s something else. I found records that the donors were given regular checkups by a doctor a couple years ago, but I can’t tell if they are still being seen. Isn’t that dangerous?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. It would be good to know if they are safe,” he said. Then he looked away. “Sookie, I want you to know that I am not feeding from that one anymore.”
“Denny?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “But I am unable to subsist on TruBlood now. I have to have real blood, and often.” Sookie felt his own disappointment in himself and she felt terrible that he felt bad about any part of himself.
“It’s no big thing, Eric,” she said brightly. “You need to be strong, and I’m here now and if you need more? Well, you need more. That’s all.” Sookie knew that Eric could feel her conflict on the subject, but he smiled and let it go. “I will say though, keeping this many donors in the palace is expensive. Any way we can cut down on the number we’re feeding?” Sookie had a bad moment when she realized she was talking about other humans in a not-so-human way. It made her wonder if she was leaving too much of her Christianity behind.
“Thierry suggested a regular rotation. He told me that’s how it was done where he came from.” Yet, as Eric said it, Sookie could tell there was something about all this that was not being said.
“What?” Sookie asked. “There’s more you aren’t saying.”
“It’s about donors,” Eric said and he looked uncomfortable. “You know that we don’t view them the same way you do.There are things about how they are handled, truths that you will not like.” Sookie felt like whatever this was, Eric was right. She was not going to be happy, so she waited. Eric wouldn’t meet her eyes. “There was a time that I held a job as procurer,” he said. “Like Compton.”
‘You were someone who got things?” Sookie prompted.
“I was someone who procured donors,” Eric replied. “I would identify blood types.They had to be young and fresh. It was very long ago, a time that people went missing. I became skilled at finding ones who would not be hunted long.” Eric met her eyes now and Sookie could tell that he was reluctant to continue so she held his hand and looked down and waited. “I brought them in and I turned them over to those who would train them. When they were no longer fresh, it was my job to end them.” Sookie bit her lip and nodded her head.
“The donors here, Eric? Do you think that’s how they came here?”
“Yes,” Eric told her. “The group here has been glamoured. Most have little desire to leave. It marks them as lost ones.”
“So, if we wanted to let them go, that would be okay, right?” Sookie could hear that her voice was small and she knew that Eric could feel her dread.
“I don’t know, Sookie. I don’t know if they are trained for anything else. If we just turn them out, what would they do? Is it kind to force them from this place to starve in the street?”
“Well, I don’t know, Eric!” Sookie said. He was right. She was not happy. “Maybe Thierry has another idea. He seems to know something about how this works today. I can ask him.” Then Sookie felt something from Eric again, the same thing she had felt when she mentioned Alcide. She closed her eyes and savored it and she knew. “Oh my God! You’re jealous of him, aren’t you?” she exclaimed.
“Who?” Eric said. Sookie could tell he was lying.
“You know! Thierry! And Alcide? Really, Eric? You are God’s gift to women! I can’t look at you without wanting to jump your bones. Most days I can’t stand the whiplash that follows you around. There wasn’t one night in Fangtasia that there wasn’t a mob of people wishing me dead because you wanted me, but you? You don’t have one reason in the world to feel jealous. I shouldn’t tell you, but the reality is, you’re it for me. I’ll never love another the way I love you. Yes, I tried to find replacements, Quinn and Sam. No one ever measured up to you, so don’t you have one minute of worry. I’m yours to step all over.” Sookie shook her head. “Pathetic but there it is!”
Eric grinned. “So, you want me to treat you badly?” Eric snarked.
“Just remember, I know where you sleep!” Sookie snarked back. “Seriously, I’m in Iowa in two days. I was planning on asking Maude about households anyway. It can wait until then.” Eric nodded, so Sookie brought up the other thing she had learned.
“Devrah tells me that there used to be rules here and that visiting vampires signed them.”
“Of course,” Eric said. “Every house has written rules.” Then he looked at her quizzically. “You’re telling me that there were no rules in place when we got here? Nothing posted or distributed?”
“No,” Sookie confirmed. “Victor Madden seems to have run a free for all.” Eric shook his head. “Eric,” Sookie chided, “It’s not something you would have known. You’re king. You wouldn’t think about it because who would ask you to sign rules, right? Why would you think it had changed?” Sookie shrugged. “Look, Devrah is bringing me a copy of what was in place tonight. I’ll be looking it over and I can show you too. We update anything that needs to change,and then everyone signs. It’s part of the welcome paperwork for anyone who stays here from then on.”
Eric smiled and nodded. “There is one other thing I wished to mention to you, Lover. It is a small thing, but I want you to know the truth of it.” Sookie could feel that whatever it was Eric was more nervous about it than he was saying. As he turned his eyes to her Pam’s voice sounded from the stairs.
“It’s been over an hour. You said you’d be downstairs and there are people waiting.” Eric turned to Pam, and Sookie could feel a strange mix of relief and irritation. Then Pam’s eyes widened and Sookie could see her draw breath in. “You bonded!” she yelped. “Oh thank goodness! About time!” Pam rushed forward and caught Sookie up in her arms in a rare hug.
“Well, good grief, Pam. You’d think that it was ever a question.” Sookie now appreciated that by not bonding earlier it had created doubts for even those as close to them as Pam. As much as she thought she had learned about vampires and politics, Sookie now realized there remained much for her to learn.