Eric was reading from a book at an amazing speed, and mumbling things to himself. I was a nervous wreck. We were really getting married. This was it. I mean, maybe not married in my world – the human world – but to me this was real enough. It didn’t help that I’d been feeling Eric inside me all night and he was as much a wreck as I was but for different reasons. He was a little scared and a lot angry.
I’d always bemoaned the fact that I’d never get married, that nobody would ever marry me because I would be inside the man’s head 24/7. Worse, he’d be inside mine. Every time he looked at another woman, or thought I was being obnoxious. And I can be obnoxious if I set my mind to it.
Somehow the awareness of Eric’s feelings wasn’t as bad as that, and it was easy to let them be part of the background. That’s how come I hadn’t noticed his fear and anger earlier. He’d kept them reeled in very well and had me thinking of other things. I’d been mad, but now I was just scared.
“Do you want to say vows? You’d have to come up with your own,” he said.
“Do they have to be anything specific? I mean, I know the vows that are said at most weddings,” I answered, not even knowing what I was saying. We were talking vows for God’s sake!
“Those will work perfect,” he said reading some more from his book. I think he was just trying to be agreeable.
Now I was more of a mess, thinking that the “in sickness and in health” part didn’t really apply when it came to vampires. Though, hadn’t I seen him hurt and stood by him then? That could be considered sickness, right?
Indira zoomed into Eric’s office. “Namaste, Eric. Namaste, Sookie,” she said and bowed to us briefly, then took my hand.
A horrible growl ripped through Eric when she touched me. He was so stressed that he grew overprotective of me. He almost tackled her, but instead of getting defensive Indira bowed to him again.
“She cannot get married in black, Master Eric,” she said.
Eric’s growls quieted, and he nodded slowly. “I apologize,” he said. I knew it had taken everything out of him to calm down and be reasonable.
Indira took me to the ladies’ room, where she had a garment bag. “It’s too short notice to get your gold dress, Pam said. But in Eric’s time and in my own country, brides dress in bright colors,” she explained as I was undressing and she was pulling yards and yards of red fabric with flower patterns woven in gold thread. “You and I seem to be of similar size. This will work.”
I put on an embroidered shirt that matched the fabric and stopped mid-abdomen, a soft cotton petticoat, and then Indira started wrapping the yards of red around me. “I don’t have anything to cover your head, as you should have, so we will have to make do with leaving your hair down.” Once I was wearing the sari, she brushed my hair neatly behind my shoulders.
I could barely believe my own reflection. Me, Sookie Stackhouse from Bon Temps, dressed in fine soft silk and cotton from the Far East. This ensemble probably cost more than anything I could have found at David’s Bridal. It fit with the fact that this was not a traditional marriage.
Something outside made her stiffen. “We will be right out, Master Eric,” she said in her soft voice. I wondered how long he’d been standing there.
I could feel tears prickling my eyes, but I held them back as best I could. “Thank you, Indira. This is so kind of you.”
“Sookie, you’re so kind to everybody else. At some point it comes back to you,” she said and patted my cheek with a smile before she led me out of the ladies’.
We headed to the main part of Fangtasia. There were about twenty vampires gathered around the dance floor, circling a table with a black tablecloth where Eric had set the knife, still wrapped in velvet. The bar was closed, as far as I could tell. All eyes were on me as Indira walked me to my husband-to-be, whose eyes had bugged out of his head when he saw me. There was love in that gaze; I could feel it as sure as I could feel my nervous heart fluttering in my chest. And then he smiled.
“God save me, I love him,” I whispered to Indira. Although everybody in that room probably heard me.
We walked behind the table, where Eric was standing now wearing a black suit, looking as beautiful as ever with his hair in a low ponytail. As Indira placed my hands in his, I made a decision. I could be Sookie the scared little girl and wilting flower, or I could be Sookie the wife of a powerful vampire and the strong woman that Adele Stackhouse raised. I figured the latter would do better in this circumstance. Gran had always said a woman did what needed to be done, period, and to save myself from those who would have me I had to join my life to Eric’s. Not a bad trade-off if you can get it.
Eric kissed the knuckles of my right hand, and the ring on my left hand, before turning to his people. “Thank you all for bearing witness to our union in marriage,” he said in his deep voice, making it resonate through the bar. He turned back to me, piercing through me with his glacial blue eyes. I didn’t dare move and I could barely breathe.
“I, Eric Northman, take you, Sookie Stackhouse, as my wife, to be bound to you by blood. Everything I have is now yours. There shall be one end for us both; one bond after our vows; nor shall our first love aimlessly perish. Happy am I to have won the joy of such a consort.” Eric caressed my face softly, and I knew it was my turn.
I swallowed a lump in my throat and screwed in my courage. “I, Sookie Stackhouse, take you, Eric Northman, as my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Eric’s eyes moved quickly from me to the knife and back to me. I unwrapped the knife and took it reverently in both hands, presenting it to Eric. Something inside him twitched. It was his fear, but I didn’t think he was afraid of cutting himself or of exchanging blood with me. Something else was wrong. He proceeded quickly with the ceremony, and I felt a new sense of urgency. It was him. He was the one who wanted us to finish this quickly.
In a flash of motion he had slashed his wrist and presented it to me. I didn’t waste any time and put my mouth over the wound. Just like the night before, the way I bent left my neck vulnerable. Eric caressed it before sinking his fangs. His euphoria was an obstacle I hadn’t counted on. It transferred to me much easier this time, and I started getting drunk on his blood. Or maybe high. Either way I was blissfully unaware of anything but his blood in my mouth, and the way he was holding me tight against him. His lust flared and so did mine. This wouldn’t be easy at all, particularly when I realized I was rubbing myself against him and he was doing the same thing against me.
I pulled away when the wound healed on his wrist. I had promised myself not to kiss him after the ceremony, since I was supposed to still be mad at him. But I’m weak, and when he said “your lips are bloody,” I knew I was going to get kissed whether I wanted to or not. And I wanted to.
There we were, making out like high school kids in front of twenty vampires or so, who were all clapping and hooting. Well… this was more like a human wedding than I thought after all. Except for the blood-drinking part.
Eric let me go and turned us around to face the crowd. I was embarrassed but okay. At any other time I’d have said I was happy. I know Eric felt happy and looked triumphant. We’d done it: we had bonded and twenty vampires had witnessed it. They would spread the news and soon everyone in the vampire world would know about us.
We sat at the thrones, Eric making a big deal out of my sitting in his usual chair to his right. As soon as we sat down the noise died down and a sea of vampires parted to make room for three newcomers. Everyone bowed deeply as two teenagers and an older blonde walked forward.
If I hadn’t been so shocked to see her, I would have pummeled her. The older blonde was my cousin Hadley. That could only mean one thing: the teenage girl was none other than Queen Sophie-Anne, and the teenage boy must have been Andre. They looked to be no older than sixteen, although they were wearing sober clothing worthy of Wall Street. It must have been tailor made. There was no way that they carried those types of clothes at the Juniors’ section of Penney’s.
“Eric,” Queen Sophie-Anne said once she reached us. Her eyes were green and intense.
“Your Majesty,” Eric said, not standing up but bowing his head. I guessed it wasn’t customary for him to stand and bow to her during his own wedding.
“I suppose my invitation got lost in the mail,” she said and gave him a tiny smile. I wasn’t sure if she was getting ready to attack him or if she was impressed by Eric’s craftiness.
Eric’s feelings were steady as he regarded her. His hand squeezed mine softly, letting me know that (for now) everything was well. “We blood bonded last night, but we decided that my people should have celebrated our union with us. It was only fair that they know as soon as possible.”
I looked past the kids at Hadley. She looked remarkably well, older than I remembered her but otherwise fine. Other than the fact that she was very pale, as all vampires are, she looked healthy. I wondered if she had been healthy when she was turned. She was looking down at the floor. She knew what her big mouth had done.
Queen Sophie-Anne turned her attention to me and held out her hand. “I am Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Queen of Louisiana.”
I took her hand and shook it like the robust woman that I am. “Sookie Stackhouse Northman. My pleasure.” There was a surge of pride coming from Eric’s side. Adding his name to mine had been the right thing to do in front of Sophie-Anne. Not that I was going to the Department of Motor Vehicles anytime soon.
“Your choice of wedding dress is unusual, though quite beautiful,” she said.
It wasn’t unusual for people from India to dress the way I was for their weddings, but I decided that was not the right thing to say to Sophie-Anne. “Thank you, Your Majesty is very kind,” I said instead, remembering she was a queen.
“Have you ever been to New Orleans?” she asked. Was she making small talk? No. The Queen of Louisiana would not be making small talk. There was something behind this question.
“Only once, Ma’am.” It had been a horrible excursion during high school, with thirty other teenagers, enclosed inside a small stuffy bus with all their thoughts assaulting my mind about anything from needing to use the bathroom, to wanting to have sex in the backseat. For hours upon hours.
“Then you will have to visit again. Perhaps for your honeymoon?” the Queen smiled beatifically. Shit! We’re in so much trouble.
“We will have to find the time, Your Majesty,” Eric said, answering the question and getting me off the hook. “The holidays are approaching and that is the busiest time of year for us here at Fangtasia,” he explained.
“Of course. We will arrange it for the new year,” she said. “I will leave you. I believe your cousin would like to greet you.” And with that she went to the bar where Chow was handing out drinks.
Hadley approached and Eric went on the defensive again, growling at her louder the closer she got. He leaned over, slowly making it out of his chair to get in front of me, shielding me. I rolled my eyes. This was going to get old quick. I peeked around him to see if there was something that would give me a clue as to why he was being so protective. When her eyes met mine they were void of all emotion and her fangs ran out fully.
“Hadley!” I heard Queen Sophie-Anne yell at her.
That did nothing to deter my cousin, who launched herself at Eric to get to me. The resounding boom of two super vampire bodies clashing was deafening. Pam and Indira were by my side immediately, fangs out and ready to attack anybody else that came close.
Eric held Hadley by the throat, waiting for Andre who pulled her and carried her out the door. She wailed and snarled all the way out.
Sophie-Anne approached us looking apologetic, at least. “I’m sorry, Eric, Sookie. Hadley said she would be able to control herself if she saw you. But she’s too new and you smell too good,” she said looking at me with hungry eyes. “As a matter of fact you remind me of Hadley’s own scent. It must be a genetic quirk,” she turned her green gaze to Eric. “We will talk,” and with that she left too.
Everyone settled immediately, including Pam and Idira, who knew better than to get too close to me while Eric was stressed. The only thing that didn’t settle right away was my poor little heart. I was sure every single vampire inside that bar could hear it.
“Are you alright?” Eric asked me, getting down on one knee beside me to inspect me, though I hadn’t been touched.
“I’m okay. I’ll be okay. Give me a minute,” I said. Pam brought me a glass of water and I gulped it noisily.
Eric took the glass from me when it was empty. “Do you need more?” he asked. I shook my head. “I believe it’s customary for us to dance at our wedding. Would you like to dance with me?”
I hadn’t noticed the music at all. I accepted his hand, simply because it would do no good for me to remain seated and brood on what had happened. I calmed down during our first dance, enough to enjoy the second.
“Put your feet on mine, Sookie,” Eric whispered in my ear before kissing my neck where he had bitten me. I was sure the marks were gone by now.
When my feet where on his (and I was worrying about scuffing his shoes), he tightened his hold on my waist and up we went. We’d never flown together, and now we weren’t only flying, we were dancing in midair. He whirled us about, and I threw my head back to let the wind catch my hair. I was smiling and laughing like a little kid. Brownie points for the vampire who took my mind off things by taking me flying.
I felt Eric’s kisses on the exposed skin of my chest, and I straightened so I could claim those kisses on my mouth. I had so many questions to ask him, but at that moment I forgot them all.
We didn’t make it to the bedroom. We were on each other as soon as the Corvette was parked inside the garage. But there was no way for me to do anything much because the six yards of fabric around me were binding my legs tight. Somehow we made it to the kitchen, and Eric unwrapped me like a present, doing away with my underwear while he was at it. He lifted me easily onto the white tile counter, letting his pants fall to his ankles, opened me wide and entered me. I almost came right then. In fact, I came only after a few strokes. It didn’t take me long at all with his slow steady pace and his thumb stroking my little nub softly.
On the way home he explained that his blood in me was making me hornier. Okay, whatever, I just wanted him. I wasn’t horny for anybody else. I wanted to make love to my husband. Although… this was raw passionate sex.
Eric guided my ankles to rest on his shoulders and then leaned forward, holding my shoulders so I wouldn’t slide. I felt like a very naughty pretzel. Right as I was about to come again, he bit my right ankle. When he sucked it felt like he was pulling from my very center, and I was enveloped in a sweet cocoon of purple euphoria, partly his and partly mine.
He left the clothes in the kitchen and carried me upstairs. He was in a bath-taking mood, and I was in a mood to agree to whatever he wanted.
“You’re my wife now,” he said, almost reverently as we sat in the warm water.
“Mmm-hmm. And you’re my husband,” I pointed out to him, just in case he’d forgotten this thing went two ways.
“That means everything that’s mine is yours,” he said. He was going to make me take something. I just knew it.
“Not legally,” I said. I knew that wouldn’t deter him, but I could try.
“Legally, I can make you the beneficiary of my whole estate, although I’ll probably leave Pam with something,” he said, ever the practical guy.
“Are you planning on leaving me so soon? We just got married today,” I teased, but I was tense.
“I told you I’m not immortal. It is customary for married partners to plan for every eventuality. Back to my original thought, I think you should keep the Prius,” I was about to say something to that, but he kept talking. “If you don’t want it I’ll buy you a new car. Do you want the Prius or a new car?”
Oh, jeez! I knew those would be my only choices. “I’ll keep the Prius.”
“As for your house I think it would be a good idea for us to spend our nights off there, and our working nights here. I like your house. It’s cozy.”
Well, that was nice of him. I was sure he was going to suggest I sell it or rent it out. “That arrangement sounds good to me. Um, Eric?”
“Yes, dear one.”
“What happens now?”
“Now I bathe you so we can go to bed smelling clean and make love again.”
“No, I mean with Sophie-Anne. Do we have to go to New Orleans?”
Eric didn’t say anything for a few moments, either thinking about it or picking his words carefully. “We probably will, but only as a courtesy visit. We avoided a very bad turn of events tonight. I’m sure the reason she brought Hadley was to make you go with her to New Orleans, to keep you there.”
“Are you in trouble?” I asked, fearing it would be him who incurred the wrath of the Queen.
“Not really. She’ll probably be upset, but since I am a loyal subject, she’ll probably think it’s just as well that you’re bonded to me. If she ever needs you for anything, I still have to go with you and have veto power. So you’re safe, as safe as I could make you without disrupting your life too much.”
“Too much? I’m illegally married to a vampire,” I chuckled. “But I love you, so it feels less like an arranged marriage and more like a shotgun wedding.” And speaking about shotgun weddings and babies, “I’ll have to give away my kitten,” I pouted.
“Bring her here,” he offered.
“Nah… kitty litter,” I reached behind me and touched his nose. I felt it scrunch. “She’s a baby. Somebody will take her.”
We remained silent while he washed me. I felt like returning the favor, so I turned around and knelt between his legs. I soaped his shoulders first, following the line of muscle down to his upper arms, then back up to his neck, back down to his forearms, which were rather close considering his hands were on my breasts. He was giving both my girls hungry looks. I lifted his chin up a little bit and his eyes followed up to meet mine. I planted a soft kiss on the corner of his mouth, then on the tip of his straight nose, on the soft cleft of his chin.
I reminded myself this marriage could not have been an easy decision for him either. He had every right to resent it as much as I did, but I knew he didn’t. And I didn’t either. Not really. I regretted how fast things had happened, but I liked to think that eventually we would have reached this place.
So I kissed him. I kissed Eric, my husband, and I felt his love and something more. It was deeper than love. His devotion.