Author’s Note: The lovely image you see with every chapter was a gift from American Android. She is also a writer of SVM/TB fiction and I encourage you to visit her on Fanfiction or her WordPress site and read her stories.
Likewise, Breathesgirl who is one of my wonderful beta readers writes her own stories both for this fandom and for others. Her works may also be found on Fanfiction or through WordPress.
Thank you Ms Buffy for your expert help. You have me looking up grammar rules and I am grateful for it! Thank you for your words of support.
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 Notes: Mist, or fog, on the water is like hide and seek. Depending on where you are sailing, you find patches that shine, reflecting light like a mirror, or that absorb all light like great grey cotton balls. If you can see the other side, you sail through, losing sight of everything around you, the change in temperature and sound making you think that traveling between worlds might be possible. Then you emerge and the world seems somehow crisper and more immediate because the light has found you again. But if you can’t see the around it, you have to decide whether you will try to sail around the edge or if you will risk plunging within, uncertain how far you will wander before finding light again.
Sookie didn’t remember falling asleep last night. She supposed that it had happened while Eric was reading. The last thing she remembered was lying on her back, nestled in soft blankets, staring at the ceiling. Eric was propped on his side. He was stroking her breast, bringing the poetry of John Donne to life with his rich, low voice. He was saying something about her breasts being nests and sailing towards her India. She wasn’t sure what it all meant, but she remembered being hungry, tired, and content all at the same time.
Now as she listened to her stomach growl and felt the prompting of her bladder, it took some force to disentangle her fingers from his grasp. She couldn’t help but notice that she was a sticky mess. She peeked under the blankets and confirmed that he had showered as she suspected. That meant he had probably headed downstairs after placing her in their bed, and then rejoined her later. Sookie had a brief moment while she scooched to the edge of the mattress when she felt out of sorts that Eric had so much time out of her sight, but then she remembered all the hours of daylight she spent without him and it all seemed to even out.
“I love you,” she said aloud, glancing over her shoulder as she sailed through the bathroom door. She rejoiced at the feelings it gave her just to say it made it so much more than just words.
It was late, already mid-afternoon. She washed, dressed, and headed toward the kitchen, her stomach grumbling the whole way. Owen and Shari were standing in the hallway. Shari followed her into the elevator, her face carefully neutral, but Saul grinned at her, shook his head, and chuckled in a way that had her blushing. As they exited the elevator, Sookie’s stomach grumbled again. Shari glanced at her, “Hungry?” she asked.
Sookie shot her a look, and then relaxed, “Sure am. Truth be told, I could go for a pound of chocolate and a bag of chips.”
Shari smiled, “For me, I crave kettle chips and onion dip, and lots of it.” Sookie was surprised, and then realized that the Were could smell that she had started her period. She found herself wondering.
“How do Weres deal with it? I mean, isn’t it weird, everyone knowing?”
Shari cocked her head a little, and then shrugged, “Gee, I don’t know. I guess I never really thought about it. I mean we all smell pretty much everything all the time. I guess we’re all just used to the changes.” Sookie nodded. She thought of how nonplussed supernaturals tended to be about all kinds of things and it kind of made sense.
They rounded the corner and entered the kitchen. It was much quieter than it had been before she left for Iowa. Sookie knew it was because the palace now fed fewer people. Devrah would be talking with her today about staff reductions. She now understood and she found she could stand by Eric’s decision, but she also knew she would be happier when all the echoes of what had happened were gone.
Devrah came in from the corridor at the opposite side and her eyes lit up, “Well, look who decided to get up,” she said warmly, “You feeling good, Mistress?” Sookie could see the same knowing look she had received from Saul. “I heard from Charles when I saw him this morning that it was a good night here.”
Sookie sat at the stainless steel counter. “Good grief, I can’t believe what a fuss folks are making,” she said smoothly. Shari set a cup of coffee beside her, fixed just the way she liked it. Devrah looked past Sookie to the chef who stood at the stove.
“You make the Mistress a nice fruit salad this morning,” she said. “We got some beautiful watermelon. Sprinkle a little chili over the top.”
Sookie smiled, “I tried that in Minnesota!” she exclaimed. “It was wonderful!”
“And good for you,” Devrah smiled.
“We have some salmon lox too,” the chef volunteered. “I’ll toast you a bagel. I’ll fix it good. I mix the cream cheese with just a touch of avocado. Healthy and give you all kinds of energy.”
Sookie’s eyes narrowed. She wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but she had a pretty good idea. “I get the feeling that folks missed me,” she said, deliberately pasting her Crazy Sookie smile in place.
“It sure is a happier palace when you are here,” Devrah agreed. “Everyone’s got that little extra spring in their step.” Sookie caught a flash of Eric hissing at his sheriffs from Devrah’s thoughts. She decided it was better not to know. Devrah glanced at the clipboard in her hand and Sookie figured it was safer just paying attention to the work that needed doing.
“What’s first?” Sookie asked while she sipped her coffee.
“When folks go traveling there seems to be a hill of work that needs doing,” Devrah said with a shake of her head. “Reservations that need day hours to finalize, confirmations for pick-ups, all the things that need to get packed and shipped ahead…” the housekeeper unfolded a piece of paper in the stack she was carrying and a sour look passed over her face, “just like I’ve done every other time for the past twenty years, not like some folks would know.” Sookie lifted her chin to see if she could read the paper that had annoyed the other woman. The telepath was pretty sure she recognized Maxwell Lee’s strong hand.
Meg came into the kitchen then and smiled extra wide when she saw Sookie. “Good morning, Mistress! Or should I say Good Afternoon? Beautiful day today! You headed for the roof?”
‘How quickly people come to know our routines,’ Sookie thought. “Yes, I do want to spend a couple hours in the sun. Always makes me happy.”
“Sure that makes everyone happy,” the chef volunteered with a laugh. Devrah shot him a quick look and he cut off his smirk, reached down to grab the bowl of fruit, and placed it in the housekeeper’s outstretched hand.
“Why don’t I walk with you up to the roof, Mistress? You can have your meal there and we can go over everything,” Devrah suggested. When Sookie stood with her coffee in hand, Devrah handed the salad to Meg, “You can follow us up with a tray,” she instructed the younger woman. Sookie couldn’t miss the sharp look the housekeeper threw the chef as they walked toward the elevator.
Once they were on the fourth floor, Shari separated to move back to her station beside Owen at the doors of their room. Sookie passed them and then climbed the stairs. She waited until she and Devrah were on the roof and seated before she dropped her Crazy Sookie expression. “I get the impression that folks here think it would be best if I were to fuck Eric senseless all the time, that if I kept him on top of me it would solve problems here,” she said without sugar coating it one bit. The housekeeper had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Doctoring my food isn’t a good idea. The King has enough on his mind. I just don’t want someone around here to make it worse by accident. He hears really well and he’s pretty sensitive when it comes to me. You might want to warn the staff that teasing or commenting won’t end well.”
Devrah nodded, “I will speak with them, Mistress.” Meg arrived with the tray. She looked as if she was about to say something, but at Devrah’s look, she set things down. When she was preparing to leave she looked up, “I almost forgot! Flowers just arrived downstairs for you.” A grin spread across Sookie’s face.
“Would you mind bringing them up here?” Sookie asked. Meg smiled, bobbed a little, and retreated. Sookie watched until she had disappeared down the stairs. She gestured toward the tray, “May I pour you a cup?” she asked, remembering her manners.
“You taking my job?” the housekeeper fired back. She leaned forward, poured herself her own cup of coffee, and then refilled Sookie’s.
While they waited for Meg to return, the two women sat in companionable silence. There was something about the housekeeper that sat well with Sookie, a kind of quiet. She had a sense from this woman of strong confidence, as if she knew who she was and where she fit in her world. When they heard the sound of approaching feet, both their heads turned. The large vase in Meg’s hands contained two dozen calla lilies, all red. Sookie didn’t need to see the card. She remembered that time she had been in the hospital and she knew her Viking did too. It had been the first time Eric ever sent her flowers and they had been calla lilies just like these. She remembered thinking then that the flowers had looked like lady parts. Sookie leaned forward, taking one stem from the vase so she could really look at the lush, curved red cup with the bold yellow stamen and her thoughts returned to what had passed between them last night. As she thought of how he had looked, shaking his bon bon and grinning over his shoulder, the smile on her face became broader and broader until she couldn’t contain it. Sookie threw her head back and laughed to the sky, her joy overflowing. When she stopped, she wiped the moisture from her eyes and glanced across the table to see Devrah smiling indulgently. Sookie just shrugged, “I can’t help loving him. He is the most wonderful man!” Devrah gave a nod and looked down at her clipboard. Sookie smiled one more time at her flowers as she replaced the stem, and her day began.
The women discussed the changes in the palace. Maxwell Lee had settled in the corner suite on the third floor that had housed Melanie. “Seems like there is a fair amount of traffic on that floor,” Sookie thought aloud. The telepath knew Eric wished Maxwell Lee to live in the palace indefinitely. Having the tall, elegant vampire close by served many purposes for her Viking, not the least of which was that Eric trusted this Sheriff. Sookie knew that Eric was comfortable turning to Maxwell to seek advice. He also wished to have most of the local vampire matters go through Max and not him. Progress was being made on that front and Sookie was sure she had heard mention that there would be regular evenings starting where vampires could come to present their issues and concerns and that Max would be presiding. Sookie briefly wondered if Eric would make him sit on a throne like the one Eric used to occupy under protest at Fangtasia.
Devrah nodded, “There is a fair amount of comings and goings. It is where most of our night folks stay when they come to visit, and you all are an entertaining kind of couple. It’s like having the Queen back, all the voices in all the rooms. It’s as if the place has come back to life,” and the housekeeper smiled a quick, ironic smile, “so to speak.”
“I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. Eric was a hands-on Sheriff. He had vampires around him all the time. I know the lack of vampires around here troubled him. He told me once that the success of a kingdom can be measured by its ability to attract the strong and talented,” Sookie bit her lip as she thought aloud, “It’s much quieter on the fourth floor. Our set of rooms is pretty big, but it’s nowhere near taking up the whole floor. We are really not even one whole side. There have to be other rooms around the other three sides. What else is up there?” Sookie was thinking about how she really hadn’t explored these upper three floors much. She just hadn’t had the time.
Devrah nodded, “Well, the rooms to both sides of your rooms are set aside for guards so they can be close. The Berts used to use them. Now we keep them up for Charles and James when they stay here over-night. Charles mostly lives here, but when he goes home we clean it up and whoever is filling in takes it. That way there’s always someone close by. Then there are a couple larger rooms with their own bathrooms. That’s where Miss Pam and the Kings stayed when they visited. There are also Mr. Andre’s old rooms. They are on the other side of the courtyard from where you and the King are staying. They would look out over the street if there were any windows. Those rooms are pretty much the same as yours.”
“Where does Thalia rest?” Sookie asked. She was surprised she hadn’t thought to ask sooner. Sookie figured that as Eric’s second, it made sense that if there were nicer accommodations to offer up here on the top floor that they should go to Thalia.
“Oh, Miss Thalia was real specific when she got here. She wanted her resting place in the lower levels near her guards.” Devrah tilted her head, “I think it has something to do with being closer to the earth. In fact, she was talking about turning the open space down there into a training area.” Sookie knew the housekeeper was referring to the space that had formerly housed the donors.
“I’m pretty sure that anything Thalia wants will be fine,” Sookie nodded. “I am thinking about offering Andre’s rooms to Maxwell Lee. If that happened, how long would it take to get them into shape?”
Devrah blew some air noisily through her nose, “I would think that they would be more than acceptable the way they are, but who knows what pleases some folks?” she snorted.
Sookie met Devrah’s words with a lift of her eyebrows. It hadn’t escaped her that there was some tension between the tall, elegant vampire and her housekeeper, but with the way Devrah’s eyes followed him, Sookie doubted the woman sitting across from her was truly cross. “I’ll ask the King about it when he rises,” Sookie stated, letting Devrah know it was time to move to the next topic.
Sookie and Devrah discussed the house linens (donate or put them in storage for rotation), cancelling cable subscriptions, and old phone lines. Sookie was amazed and slightly appalled at the sharp reduction in expenses associated with grocery bills. When the topic of household staff reductions came up, Sookie could see that Devrah was torn. The people they were discussing were all folks that Devrah had hired or had known for a very long time. Anyone who had not been pulling their weight or who was a potential problem had been let go after Sookie had done the first reading weeks ago. Those who were left were good people and most had families who relied on the income they made working in the palace. Sookie looked at the list of names. She could see the sadness on Devrah’s face. ‘There has to be another way,’ Sookie thought. Then she remembered something she had heard Maxwell mention. “I may have an idea,” she said. “Let’s talk about this once everyone returns from the Summit.”
Sookie refilled her cup, earning a squint from Devrah. “Did you have a chance to make travel arrangements for me and my guards to go to Lafayette?” she asked the housekeeper. Devrah frowned and looked down her list.
“No, Mistress, when you thinking of leaving?” the housekeeper said sharply. Sookie understood Devrah’s irritation. If she were sitting in the housekeeper’s place she wouldn’t be happy about this either. Sookie knew she was thinking this was just another plan someone had made without bothering to keep her informed. Now that it was the last minute, she was finally being told and folks were expecting her to magically make it happen. ‘After all, I’m just a servant!’ she was thinking.
“It is kind of last minute,” Sookie said aloud in a conciliatory way. “You remember the note you handed me yesterday from the King? Well, that’s what it was about.”
Devrah looked at Sookie through her eyelashes, and then back at her clipboard. “Looked to me as if you were none too happy about what was in that note,” she said in a voice low enough that she could claim she hadn’t meant to say it out loud.
Sookie arched her eyebrows. It was one thing for the telepath to be pissed at her Viking, but she wasn’t going to let anyone, even Devrah, whom she liked, question orders around here anymore. Eric asked, the King asked, and that should be enough. “It was a surprise,” she said flatly, “Now I’ll grant you I don’t always take surprises well, but it’s important. I know you have your hands full arranging everything for folks leaving the day after tomorrow for the Summit, so this is extra. I have to stop in Lafayette on the way to screen the staff there. We won’t fly. It’s too close. I figure we will take a car tomorrow, Owen, Shari and myself. I can take care of business and we will need plane reservations for the rest of the way to meet up with everyone in San Antonio. Commercial flights would be best, but if you can’t find anything to get us there in time, contact Annubis.” Devrah was giving Sookie a measured look, so Sookie continued, “Yeah, I know. This would usually be done by a day person, but Eric doesn’t have one. It is a lot, but I’d sure appreciate it if you could make it happen.” Sookie leveled a long, hard, look at the housekeeper, surprising even herself with how quickly she found a way to issue orders without speaking. ‘Eric is really rubbing off on me,’ she thought to herself.
Devrah was looking right back, but then something in her eyes softened and she nodded and Sookie could see she had won. The older woman glanced down at her clipboard, “Well, that’s my list,” and she stood. “I’ll let you know as soon as everything is arranged for tomorrow.”
Sookie glanced at her watch. “I’m going to take a little nap up here. Can you make sure someone comes to wake me in an hour?” Devrah assured her that she would and Sookie rose to relocate herself on one of the chaise lounges that sat under the open sky. The afternoon sun was already hot and the humidity made Sookie feel as if she was walking through water. Still, the minute she sat with her eyes closed she could feel every part of her buzzing. It was almost like she was a battery and someone had just plugged her into the wall. Sookie regretted she hadn’t had the forethought to put on one of her bikinis. She thought of how Eric loved to smell the sun on her skin, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave, even for the few minutes it would take. She thought about just stripping off her clothes, but she wasn’t sure who would be sent up the stairs to awaken her. ‘Sure could use some of that ‘Eric Northman don’t give a shit’ right now!’ she thought, as she remembered how comfortable he had looked, walking naked around their rooms last night. The sun made the inside of her eyelids play like a kaleidoscope of colors and images. The next thing she knew, Meg was shaking her arm.
Sookie checked the time and sat up quickly. “Can you bring my flowers downstairs?” she asked, and then she flew, not waiting for the maid to follow.
Sookie ran downstairs, barely nodding toward Charles who had taken up his station outside of their rooms. She walked purposefully into the bedroom shutting the doors behind her. She quickly stripped, fluffed her hair, and slid into bed, lifting Eric’s arm sliding in under it. Even though he was still silent, she almost felt like he shifted toward her. She gave herself a little mental shake for being silly and awaited his rising.
It didn’t take long. His arm tensed, his fingers twitched, and then they tightened around her own. He drew in a deep breath and stretched a little, burying his nose in her hair. “You smell like sunshine, Lover,” he whispered. He pulled her against him so she could feel his hard length against her backside. He hooked one arm under her, bending his elbow, bringing his hand to cover over her breast and securing her against him. HIs other hand hooked between her legs. Behind her, he licked the line of her neck from the taut muscle where it joined her shoulder to the hollow right under her ear. As he licked and nipped, his long, talented fingers parted and plundered below. “I love that smell. I want to bathe in it,” he growled, low and sexy. While his fingers pressed into her, thrusting and then retreating, she felt the quick pinch as his fangs pierced her. There was something so sensual about the pressure both above and below. Sookie moved her hips, matching his rhythm. He quickened the pace, and as she began to feel the tension building from her stomach into her chest, he lifted from her neck to capture her earlobe with his blunt teeth. “Cum for me, Sookie,” he said, his voice sounding strained. His thumb joined his fingers, the strength of his grip bringing her backside more firmly against him. Eric started to press against her from behind, rubbing his cock insistently between her cheeks, and then plunged a third finger into her, stroking and twisting and Sookie fell, her orgasm exploding within her, only distantly hearing herself gasping his name.
Eric moved quickly. He picked her up and headed to the bathroom. Once the shower was running, he brought her under the water, soaped his large hands, and then started to clean her. He started with her neck, moved to her shoulders, and then drifted down to massage her breasts, paying special attention to her peaked nipples. Sookie was still feeling weak-kneed. She swayed, breathing harder than usual. Eric looked down at her with his familiar smirk. “Lover,” he said his voice all concern, “You look like you might fall over. Here,” and he turned her so her back was to him. “Why don’t you hold onto this?” He lifted both her arms and draped her hands over the bar above the soap dish. It required Sookie to lean over, her backside raised. She could feel when his hands returned, slick with gel. He started washing her rather thoroughly, massaging and parting, his fingers insistent. This was a form of lovemaking that Sookie had been introduced to by Sam Merlotte. It had taken some time for her to adjust, but he had worked to make it pleasurable. Of course, then Sam had decided that he could use this same technique as a way to punish her, and that had erased all the fun. Eric had been delighted to discover that this was another experience they could share, and Sookie found that with Eric’s talented hands and patience she could reclaim her pleasure with her Viking.
Eric moved her legs a little further apart and then reached around her to start teasing her swollen clit. His fingers feathered, then became more insistent. He moved back and forth rhythmically, each time moving a little closer to her core. As he began to dip within her, he teased her rosebud with the thumb of his other hand. Fingers dipped, thumb eased off. Fingers withdrew, thumb pushed forward. The pressure and interplay had her rocking, her eyes closed lost in her feelings. Eric exchanged his thumb for one finger, and then another. “Yes!” she cried out, and Eric chuckled behind her.
“So eager,” he crooned. His tempo increased and he added a slight twisting motion. Sookie could feel the walls of her ass starting to cramp and pulse and his fingers were gone to be replaced by the head of his cock. “Breathe,” he whispered, and the pressure returned. Eric was considerably larger than Sam had been so Sookie appreciated the extra care he took to make sure she had time to adjust. She felt the coolness she knew was more gel, a contrast to the warm water that flowed over her shoulders. Eric picked up the pace with his fingers within her core, sliding and pressing that place within her he knew so well. She couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop the arching of her back and he was in, past the tight circle of muscle. He stilled, allowing her to enjoy the feeling of fullness she only achieved in this way. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, just strange, and that added to the excitement. He rocked forward slightly, then retreated, going slowly, and countering with the movements of his other hand. Once her hips started to move with him, he pressed deeper, and twisted his other hand slightly to allow his palm to press against her clit. Eric was bombarding her with feelings, his need, his desire for her, his satisfaction, and his love.
From behind her, Eric moaned. He drew himself from her, and then moaned louder as he rocked forward to press into her again. “So tight!” he said through clenched teeth. He increased the speed of his movements, pressing into her more deeply and with more force. His free hand wrapped around the front of her thigh, the span of his fingers wide enough to massage the curve of her butt while he pulled her towards him, controlling their rhythm. ‘So close!’ Sookie thought, her breathing coming in gasps as her stomach clenched and her pussy fluttered around his fingers. The water from the shower ran across her back adding to the sensory overload. Sookie’s hands gripped the soap shelf, grateful that there was a bar that allowed her to wrap her fingers all the way around. If it had been a flat surface she wasn’t sure she would have the presence of mind to not slip. As it was, it was all she could do to keep her elbows locked against the insistent rocking of the vampire behind her. Her orgasm came with a suddenness that drove the air from her lungs, the walls of her ass clenching down on him hard, her cries reduced to high pitched squeaks and gasps. Behind her, Eric roared. He pushed hard and then harder as he came, the pulse of his cock releasing within her echoing the pulse of her own walls. With one last slap of skin against skin, he slammed his hand up to brace against the wall next to her own hand. Eric draped himself across her back, breathing rhythmically in a way that mimicked humans. She knew that it was his way of drawing their combined scents into himself. He had told her that by doing this, he enhanced his experience, and together they waited for her to recover and for her muscles to release him.
Slowly he brought his now free hand around her. “Are you alright?” he whispered. She could hear his languor, his happiness.
“What do you think?” Sookie gasped in return. The bond, which now flowed like a great river between them, carried both their contentment and amusement. Before, while in the throes of passion, Sookie had found that she would only focus on the physical sensation, that great climbing to something mysterious and wonderful. The feelings she now gained from Eric during their mating were more complex. He buried himself in the act and in the process, he enhanced her experience. Sookie found that since last night, when they joined Eric would broadcast his emotions. She could feel brief moments of joy, possessiveness, desperation, and triumph. It made the experience something more and she knew that she could quickly find herself becoming addicted. “You really are ruining me for anyone else,” she gasped.
Eric shuddered as he withdrew from her. His long arms wrapped her up. When she was standing straight, the vampire turned her gently and then brought his arms around her again, pulling her head to rest against his chest. “Sookie,” he said, her name sounding like a prayer from his lips.
“Yes,” she answered, her reply meaning so much more.
They stood under the water for a long time, Eric stroking the long lines of her back until she started to stroke him back. “We will never stop at this rate,” he mumbled above her.
“Worse things,” she whispered back.
He lifted her hand and kissed her fingertips. “You are getting wrinkled, Lover,” he teased. Sookie groaned when he reached around and turned off the water. They toweled each other dry and walked hand-in-hand back toward the bedroom. Eric opened the closet and walked forward glancing at the long racks, first on one side, and then another. It wasn’t a true walk-in closet, but it was deeper than usual and the racks did run front to back. She figured in a pinch the space was the right shape to store a coffin. Sookie sat on the bed cross-legged waiting for Eric to make his choices. “Got a lot that needs to get finished tonight?” she asked.
Eric looked over his shoulder, tensing the muscles of his behind and then relaxing them, a smirk lifting the side of this mouth as he watched her eyes fasten there. “Why? You are not yet satisfied?” and he turned around, his member already at half-staff, the head peeping from the surrounding skin. “I wouldn’t want you complaining,” he teased.
“Well, I do feel a little greedy. Seems like I just got back and you are already sending me away.”
The amusement dropped from Eric’s expression. “I should have asked you about Lafayette myself, Lover,” he said his face taking on a penitent look. “It was wrong of me to have another make that request of you. Forgive me?”
Sookie thought about the note she had read last night. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “You mean when you asked someone else to deliver your letter?”
Eric turned toward her, her favorite blue sweater in his hand, his face serious. “I did not write a letter, Sookie. I was angry. I did not trust myself to write words to you.”
Sookie looked at her Viking’s thoughtful face, “The message I got was worded as if it came from you. It even had your signature, you know, the big ego ‘E’.” Sookie waited until his head emerged, “Why would someone do that? What would someone think to gain by faking something like that?”
“Do you still have it?” Eric asked.
Sookie shook her head, “No, I got kind of mad when I read it. It was pretty high-handed, even for you.” She shrugged when Eric’s eyebrow climbed. “It did get me up the stairs and not wanting to take no for an answer though.” Sookie couldn’t keep the smile off her face at the memory. “Well, who did you ask to send the message?”
“Thomas,” the Viking replied, “but all the Sheriffs were there.”
Sookie looked down while she considered, “I think we can eliminate Max and Thalia,” she said. Eric looked at her and his mouth quirked.
“Well, lookie here, Miss Stackhouse!” he teased, “You are thinking like a vampire!”
Sookie raised one shoulder in a shrug and then looked into space while she thought it over, “Probably not Thomas,” she continued.
“Why do you eliminate him?” Eric asked.
“The message told me to head to Lafayette as a personal favor to you. Everyone knew Thomas would be in Lafayette. It would be assumed I would have my guards and everyone knew my plans, so if I didn’t arrive in San Antonio, Thomas would be the logical suspect. What would be in it for him?”
Eric nodded, “I agree. There seems little advantage. That leaves Thierry and Jane.”
“Okay,” Sookie replied, “Any favorites?”
Eric shook his head, “No, they are both bright. I would be sorry to lose either.”
Sookie nodded, “Of course, either of them could have drafted the note, and then someone else could have picked it up and made the switch.” The telepath tilted her head, “Although if that person was working alone I really think I would have picked something up if it wasn’t a vampire.”
Eric shrugged, “There are any number of servants or Weres who could have intercepted the note,” he said reasonably.
“Not really,” Sookie told him. “There are far fewer servants now and those guards who would have had access have all been around me either last night or today.” She bit her lip and thought it through. “I’ve seen pretty much everyone between today and yesterday. Unless one of the humans was asked under glamour to do it, I might not have noticed. None of the Weres were glamoured, best I can tell, but pretty much every human servant here was glamoured when the donors were removed. If someone did a quick job on one of them again so soon, it would probably slip by me. I don’t think I would be able to pick up what was then and what is now.”
“So it would appear most likely that this mystery involves a vampire.” Sookie nodded again. “I concur. With those two it might have been nothing more than a poorly considered joke. Still, I think it bears watching.”
Eric had chosen a pair of black slacks. They looked soft and Sookie found herself unable to look away as he bent over and then straightened, drawing the fabric up over his rather impressive nakedness. She knew he had turned purposely and she could see his eyes watching her in the reflection of the mirror that hung in the closet. “I love how you desire me,” he said, never turning his head.
“It doesn’t make you feel cheap?” she quipped.
“Of course not,” Eric said, perfectly reasonably. He turned and walked over to her. He cupped her face with his hand. “I am vampire. To possess is our greatest desire. To feel you wanting me, claiming me in that way where I know you would fight for me? It makes me want to mark you with my scent and declare for the whole world that you are mine!” He crushed his lips against hers, taking no quarter and claiming her mouth. Sookie felt the heat explode through her and she was rubbing her legs together and moaning into his mouth in no time. Eric pulled back, his eyes dark and blown, and then he chuckled. “Cover yourself, Lover. You know how you hate to be displayed and your dinner has arrived.”
He walked to the door, exited, and then pulled the door closed behind him. Sookie shook her head and wondered if she should take a cold shower before dressing. ‘That man!’ she smiled to herself.
When Sookie walked into the sitting area, Meg was finishing setting up a little table. There were two seats and one setting. The lilies had been moved to the coffee table and Eric had one of the blossoms in his hand. He looked across to Sookie, and then when he was sure she was watching him, slowly ran his tongue into the inside of the flower. Sookie felt her cheeks flush to brightly burn and her Viking responded by laughing out loud. Meg’s head whipped around to look at him, her face both surprised and pleased. Sookie wondered if it was the first time the girl had seen the charming side of Eric Northman, the side she knew so well. Sookie walked to the King and took the flower from his hand, “Thank you for these. They are really beautiful,” and she raised herself on tiptoe to kiss him.
Eric wrapped his hand around hers and pressed his forehead to her own. “Jag älskar dig,” he told her.
”Me too,” Sookie said as she pulled back. Eric kissed the back of her hand, and then walked her to the table. Sookie laid the flower on the table beside her place setting, while Meg brought the warm plate to the table. Once everything was settled, she turned and left the couple to themselves.
“Are you sure you don’t mind going to Lafayette?” Eric asked her. “I won’t pretend it wouldn’t be helpful, but the way that this happened makes me restless.”
“I’m fine with going,” Sookie assured him. “Besides, I already gave Devrah a hard time about making arrangements and if I were to change them again, I might find myself in big trouble.” Sookie leaned forward and as she did she felt a small amount of discomfort. They had been using each other pretty vigorously, “Besides, if I stay here much longer, we might break each other,” she said before he could open his mouth to say anything more. She saw the concern in his eyes and knew he had felt her discomfort through their bond.
Eric came around the table and knelt beside her. He placed one hand against her cheek and raised his other wrist to his mouth. He bit, and then turned the slowly dripping, bloody wrist to her. “I am sorry, Lover. I have been too selfish with you. Drink!” He drew her closer and stroked her head while she sucked his blood inside of her.
Almost immediately she felt renewed energy and the ache was replaced by a general sense of well-being, and then a rather persistent desire to make more aches and pains… She pulled her head back gently and licked her lips. She licked his wrist for good measure, though the wounds were already gone. “Thank you,” Sookie said warmly and Eric kissed her before he rose, and then returned to sit on the table’s opposite side.
The kitchen had sent up a wonderful chicken gumbo. The spicing was perfect and there was homemade cornbread on the side. There was also a bowl of watermelon cubes sprinkled with chili powder. Eric’s eyes widened as he scented it. “Don’t ask,” Sookie muttered. After a few minutes, she raised her head to ask Eric to confirm what she had recalled regarding vampires using spies.
“Yes, it is common practice,” he confirmed. “I am sure we have spies here although the kingdom has been so poor, I doubt there is much that would interest many.” He turned his head speculatively, “What has you thinking about spies, Älskare?” Sookie told Eric about her research with the database. He was very interested in how she had made the connection between arrival date, particular events, and points of origin. “This is very useful,” he told her. Sookie rose and retrieved the paper sitting on the table on the other side of the room where it had been left. Eric reviewed the information, leaving her in silence to finish her meal. While she finished, he glanced across the table, “We should head downstairs,” he said gently. Sookie nodded and when Eric offered her his hand, she grasped it, watching the wink of light captured in the jewel that rested upon her finger. He helped her rise from her chair, and then lifted her hand to kiss her ring. “It pleases me to have you here.”
Sookie smiled and together they walked through the doors into the hallway. As they rode down to the meeting rooms, Sookie asked Eric if he would mind asking Maxwell to take over Andre’s rooms. “If he doesn’t mind being closer to us, that is acceptable,” Eric agreed. Behind her she could sense Saul’s quiet amusement. Eric turned to him and nodded. The Were nodded back. As Eric tucked her hand around his arm, she at once felt that she was home. She knew now where she belonged and with whom.
As they walked together into the meeting room, the vampires rose almost as one and bowed. Eric stopped and Sookie with him, and they bowed slightly in return. Eric smiled down at her, and she separated, moving to one of the desks where she would be able to bring up her email. Eric continued into the room and handed the list of names to Thalia. “I would like you to arrange investigating these,” he told her. “Be discrete.”
“Impressive,” Thalia said darkly, “It will be my pleasure. How did you find so many?”
“I didn’t,” the Viking told her, “Sookie did.”
Thalia’s nostrils flared and she turned her fierce stare towards the telepath, “This was good work for the kingdom, breath… Mistress,” she said as she bowed.
‘Must be back in good graces,’ Sookie thought while she inclined her head and said, “It is our kingdom, Thalia, and I am dedicated to it.” Sookie glanced at Eric and could see that he approved her words. She smiled, and then turned back to the computer screen typing in passwords, and then opening browsers.
Eric was confirming the agendas that had arrived from the Summit planners. Sookie was beginning to recognize the flow of things. The first night would be business meetings. Eric’s team would be making a presentation, and then there would be private meetings with Stan and Sandy. The second night would start with the Assizes Court, followed by a special session that had been called to decide the succession for Oregon. Then Sookie heard a name she hadn’t heard since Rhodes. “Excuse me,” she said and stood up to walk over to where Eric stood. “Did you say the Ancient Pythoness would be there?”
Eric’s look was cautious. Sookie figured she was treading on thin ice here, interrupting him when she had no official standing, but this was kind of big news to any vampire, and these were all folks who were supposed to know and support her. She held back and waited for him to respond, figuring that was sufficient show of respect for being home. He inclined his head a touch to her, “Yes, she has agreed to decide the matter,” he said. He sent her comfort through the bond, but she felt something else, something that said ‘Move along, we need our space.’
Sookie resisted the temptation to stick her tongue out at him, but said “Thanks,” and returned to her desk.
Her email opened and she found messages from Michele and Tara. She decided to wait on those since they would be full of family and friends news, and she wanted to enjoy them. There was another message from Twy and one from Mr. Cataliades. These would be business and she would take care of them first. The lawyer informed her that the divorce had made no progress. He felt that without some intervening event, it was likely the officer would wait out the full year. He also reminded her that Diantha was looking forward to seeing her in San Antonio as was he. He concluded with best wishes. Twy’s message was a little more upbeat. She was heading to San Antonio and had agreed to do some work for Stan. Sookie was happy to hear that, figuring if the publicist had more clients in the supernatural world she would be less pushy about Eric. Then in the next paragraph she was reminding Sookie about their once a month deal and suggesting/telling the telepath that Eric should be doing a spot on what vampires do on vacation, and featuring photos on the Riverwalk. Twy finished with a short paragraph telling her that her friend had hired a ghostwriter for Compton’s last two books. He was proving ‘difficult’ and there were reports he was channeling Truman Capote. The description synced with what Bubba had told her. The books would be called ‘A Viking’s Bond’ and ‘Bonded for Life.’ Twy was looking forward to seeing both she and Eric in Texas, and she promised Sookie details on the upcoming book promotions. Sookie found herself chuckling. She could just imagine Bill’s long-faced, sad expression.
Sookie filed both messages and was just getting ready to settle back to family correspondence when an email popped into her browser. It was from Bill Compton. Sookie was so surprised that Eric paused in what he was saying and turned toward her. She felt his questions, looked back, and shook her head. He rolled his eyes a bit and resumed whatever he was saying. Sookie took a deep breath, and then opened the email.
I want to let you know that the special bond that we share through our story is being threatened. I always felt that our time together was unique and I am sure that you do too. I understand that you feel obligated to Eric since Pam rescued you. I respect your show of loyalty. Don’t worry about me, dear heart. I will always remember our real story through the words of Troy and Shanna.
I don’t want you to be hurt anymore, so I want you to know the terrible way that these people are trying to steal my work, our story. It was my dream to immortalize us, sweetheart, and it made me so happy that others loved our story too. I was foolish. I accepted their money and, in turn, I sold us in the process. Now they are warping the story that made everything between us right. They are changing it and writing it without any input from me. Your Shanna will be enthralled by Leif.
If my heart could beat, it would bleed for the injustice done you. I am sorry to have failed you, dear one. Know that I will look for a way to make this thing right.
Sookie stared at the screen for a long time. She thought she had been more than clear the last time they had spoken. It was hard to think that Bill could have misunderstood her in any way. Sookie wondered for a minute whether it was possible for a vampire to go insane. She thought it probably was, but then shook her head. This was Bill! He had his moments, but he was about as dangerous as a plate of pasta, and Sookie hit the delete key and moved on to the news of Bon Temps.