I hadn’t seen my friends in what felt like ages, so I decided to go grab lunch at Merlotte’s and see what everybody was up to. Well, it would be more like breakfast, since I’d woken up so late in the morning.
Eric and I had spent a long time talking after our bath. He apologized for how quick the ceremony had been, and for not telling me about Andre’s visit as soon as he could. “I don’t often make mistakes,” he’d said, as if explaining why it was hard for him to apologize.
I forgave him. Unless he had some kind of time-travel powers that I didn’t know about, we couldn’t go back and fix what had been done or how. So why keep thinking about it? I just let it go. I already had his promise that he would tell me things as soon as they happened.
When I arrived at Merlotte’s I was greeted by many smiling faces. Even Arlene seemed to have gotten over her guilt about Rene and gave me a shy smile. Sam himself showed me to a table and took my order, when he brought it out he sat with me while I ate.
“How are you, cher? You look happy,” Sam said. He was eating some of my French fries.
“I am; I’m really good. How are things here?”
“No, no, no. You first,” Sam insisted.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” I mumbled looking down at my food. Should I even tell him I was married now? I just didn’t think that would go over well. But it was my news, and Eric was the reason I looked happy.
“Why don’t you tell me about what happened last night?” he asked in a very low voice.
I was surprised, to say the least. How did Sam know? Was he friends with a vampire?
“Don’t look so shocked, Sookie. Word travels fast in the supe world, particularly when somebody one-ups a queen. Eric has gall, I’ll admit,” Sam said, patting my hand on the table.
“It was last minute,” I blurted out, thinking that maybe I should have invited Sam, at least.
“It’s okay. I know what happened. I just want you to tell me about it. How did it come about? Start at the beginning,” Sam said. His smile was encouraging, and I didn’t want to dip into his mind to see if it was genuine.
I looked around briefly only to find that no one was paying much attention to us. The place was hopping with the lunch crowd, and all the waitresses were busy. I lowered my voice and told Sam about Andre checking up on Eric’s progress, about Eric’s sudden fear that nobody knew we were blood bonded and his idea to make his people witnesses of our union.
“We started the ceremony very close to eight, and Andre was due any minute, so Eric had to rush through everything. It was a good thing too, because the Queen showed up with Hadley in tow,” I explained.
Sam made a hissing noise. “Isn’t Hadley a brand new vampire?”
“Yes, she almost attacked me. She threw herself at Eric to get to me. Eric said the Queen had brought Hadley to make me go with them to New Orleans. He didn’t want to go into specifics, probably trying to save me a fright, but I can only imagine they would have talked me into going by threatening to hurt Hadley.” I shook my head sadly. Hadley had suffered so much already in her life. “It would have worked,” I confessed.
“It would have been her own fault,” Sam said, sounding a little judgmental in my opinion.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” I said. Only I knew Hadley’s history, and only I knew the damage that had been done, and by whom. “Anyway, Eric told me she’ll be fine. The Queen isn’t known for being a sadist to her own children.”
There was a brief pause. I saw Sam’s eyes alight on my ring. “I can barely believe it, Sookie. But I guess it was inevitable. You could only be with someone whose mind wasn’t inside yours all the time, so your choices were limited.”
I shrugged, feeling a little shy. Sam understood my quirk better than most because he had cared more than most. Not even my brother could say that. Speaking of whom, here came the little twerp.
“Sam,” I called his attention back to me. He’d seen Jason come in with the rest of the Jason’s road crew. “If he starts anything stupid, you’re more than welcomed to get the bat out.”
Sam gave me a sad half smile, but nodded. “Maybe you two should speak and clear the air here, where he’s less likely to make a scene.”
“Maybe,” I said, taking a deep breath as I said the word.
“Sookie?” I looked up to find Jason standing right next to our table. His was wringing his hands, nervous. He actually looked apologetic.
Sam stood up and thumped his hand on Jason’s shoulders, as if encouraging him to sit in the just-vacated seat. It was a hard thump. “I’ll bring you something,” he said to Jason, and left.
Jason sat in front of me, folding and unfolding his hands on the table, and his eyes on them rather than on me. “I’m very sorry about yesterday. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. I know you’d never do anything like… like what I accused you of doing.” He couldn’t bring himself to say it again. Just as well.
I shook my head. “Jason,” I sighed. “You’re the only family I have, and I’m the only family you have. That’s it. Everyone else is gone, except for Hadley who…” I stopped talking. I had to tell him about last night. “I saw her last night.”
“Isn’t she a vampire?” he asked, perplexed.
“Yes, she is, and for now she’s very dangerous. She’s only been a vampire for less than a month and she tried to attack me. It might take a whole year for her to be able to control herself. So even though we know where she is, we can’t make her part of our family. It’s just us.” I took a sip from my Coke, finding that my throat had gone very, very dry suddenly. Seeing Hadley so feral had done a number on me.
“There’s Uncle Bartlett,” he said in a very low voice.
“Who only by the grace of God still wastes oxygen on this Earth. I don’t wanna talk about him.” Jason nodded. The subject was closed. “Eric and I are very close, and he is a very important part of my life. He isn’t giving me things just because. We love each other.”
I must have made some kind of motion with my left hand that grabbed Jason’s eyes to look at the ring there. “I see,” he took a deep breath, as if bracing himself. “Are you engaged to him?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. We can’t get married, so we’ve taken it as far as we can go without breaking the law,” I answered, almost defiantly, although I was trying very hard not to raise my voice.
Jason nodded, understanding. “He asked you to marry him, then? He’s that serious about you.”
That was the understatement of the century. But I couldn’t tell my brother that Eric and I really were married. I hated to think it, but I didn’t trust him. Not yet. Sam was more apt to keep the secret, since he had secrets of his own.
“Eric and I are as serious about our relationship as we can possibly be. If we could marry in a court of law we would,” I said, then softened my tone. “Don’t worry about me, okay? Eric is powerful, but he treats me right.” Now I was speaking Jason’s language.
Sam appeared at our table with food and a drink for Jason, and then thumped him a couple of times on his shoulder before leaving us again. I understood the gesture: it was warm and friendly, and at the same time it said “I can beat you up in a nanosecond.” I smiled at Sam’s retreating figure.
“I’d hoped someday you’d pick Sam or Hoyt,” Jason said before taking a bite from his burger.
“I wouldn’t be able to be with them,” I said to Jason for the umpteenth time in our lives. Somehow he always failed to grasp how bad it was for me to listen to others’ minds, or that whenever I touched someone it was imperative that I listen. I’d never attempted having sex with anybody because kissing had been bad enough. Jason knew this, but he forgot, or else didn’t care.
“Jason, I have to ask you a favor,” I said. If Jason agreed to this one thing, he could (maybe) start redeeming himself as a brother.
“What’s that?” he said, almost enthusiastic.
“I have a kitten that needs a new home. Can you take her? She’s very loving and girls like it when you care for pets,” I said, appealing to his inner Casanova.
He thought about it briefly. “Is she potty trained?”
“She’s a cat Jason, so she’s litter trained,” I rolled my eyes.
“Why are you giving her away?” he asked. It was a fair question. Maybe Tina had shredded my curtains or peed on the rug.
“I’m dating a vampire. All vampires have an incredibly acute sense of smell. I can’t keep the kitty litter clean enough. To Eric it’s always going to smell,” I explained, telling him the truth.
“I’ll come get her. Can I come over after work?” he asked.
I was actually feeling like my spirits were lifting. Of course, I hadn’t asked Jason for a kidney. We’d both grown up with cats around the house. “Yeah, sure. I have to go to Monroe, but I should be back by the time you’re off.”
Lafayette joined me after Jason was done with his lunch. I was done with mine too, of course, but Lafayette’s break didn’t start until after the lunch rush. The waitresses joined in too, Holly and Charlsie, and Arlene sort of hung around close, still too embarrassed to actually speak to me.
“So you’re dating that tall, light, and gorgeous vampire, huh?” Lafayette asked and winked. His smile said it all.
“Yes, although dating isn’t accurate. We’re a little bit closer than that,” I said, and I knew I was blushing.
Lafayette’s eyes turned sultry, while the girls’ eyes went wide in shock. I liked Lafayette’s reaction better, even if he was thinking of my Eric in less than innocent ways.
“Wait,” Charlsie held up her hands. She looked confused. “Is this the same guy who came here during your good-luck party?”
“Yep! That’s the one,” I answered, and couldn’t help the smile that broke my lips. He’d been mad that evening, and must have looked menacing to anyone but me. That’s ‘cause I had been an idiot.
“Yum!” Lafayette piped up. “Do you have a picture? Talk about eye candy.”
“Oh, you!” I waved my hand at him. I searched in my purse for my phone. I’d taken a picture of Eric to identify his phone calls. It didn’t take much persuasion to have him pose. He was vain enough.
“Whooo!” Lafayette fanned himself when he saw the picture. In it Eric had given me one of his most seductive smiles. My phone didn’t take very bright pictures except in daylight, which actually worked to Eric’s advantage. His skin was so light that a flashlight (or any bright light) would have washed him out. Instead, he looked almost tanned, and his blue eyes looked dark and sultry.
“Is that the same guy?” Holly asked, looking at the picture with hungry eyes.
“That’s Eric,” I said, enjoying the fact that others found him attractive too. I wasn’t the only fool, after all.
We spoke a little bit longer about me, and then Lafayette told us a story about a party he’d gone to, a “naughty” party (his word, not mine). He said he’d changed everybody’s name to protect the guilty.
I left Merlotte’s at close to two in the afternoon, and made the drive to Monroe. I was a girl on a shopping mission. If Eric was going to get me ruby earrings, a ring, and a car, he was going to get the only thing I could get him with any sort of confidence: clothes.
Nordstrom’s was not very busy in the middle of an early Wednesday afternoon. I made a bee line for the men’s section and quickly garnered the attention of an overeager salesman. Perfect. I really did need help, and I had a little money to spend… the money I had been putting away for a car now had a new purpose.
The salesman helped me pick out several outfits. I knew Eric was a casual guy, so all the outfits were of the polo-shirt-and-jeans persuasion, plus a couple of sweaters because the weather was turning cool. When I reached my limit, the salesman checked me out then walked me to Customer Service where, he told me, they’d wrap everything for me.
A very tall woman greeted me with a huge smile. To say she was statuesque was an understatement. She must have been about six feet tall, slender but curvy in the right places, and her long black hair shone as if she’d just had it done at the hair salon. Maybe she had. But what made me take the most notice, besides how incredibly beautiful she was – her skin looked as soft as a ripe plum – was how incredibly friendly she was.
“Is this for a birthday?” she asked, her smile never wavering, not even a little bit.
The smile was contagious. “Not really, but it is for a special occasion. Can you make them really pretty?”
“Of course! Lots of ribbons and curlicues on a really bright paper, coming up!” she announced.
I watched her work quickly, cutting the prices off, putting everything in boxes lined with tissue paper, and wrapping everything in several colors. Then came the painstaking process of ribbons. She called it the “ribbonization.” She’d been talking the whole time she was wrapping. She had ascertained this was for my boyfriend, and how lucky my boyfriend was to have such a thoughtful girlfriend, and the upcoming sales, and what was I doing for Halloween.
“We have a big party where I work,” I said genially. I almost felt like I could tell her anything.
“That’s great! Where do you work?”
“I work at Fangtasia, a vampire bar in Shreveport.”
“I know it well, though I’ve never been. I’m sure they do all kinds of crazy stuff for Halloween.”
“This is going to be my first Halloween working there, so I’m a little excited. Are you doing something interesting for Halloween?” I asked, wondering what someone as gregarious as her would be doing.
“My brother and sister work at a club in Shreveport, Houlihan’s, have you heard of it?” she asked.
“Oh, um, yes I have,” I said, taken aback. Every single girl I knew had mentioned it because that’s where girls went to watch men strip. “Your sister doesn’t…?”
“Strip? No! Just my brother Claude. Claudette works at the door, and I’m the cheering section,” she said with a smile. I suddenly had the urge to look at her nametag: Claudine. Well, whatdayaknow? Their parents mustn’t have had great imaginations when it came to names… unless their mother was named Claudia and their father Claudius.
“What’s your name?” she asked when she noticed me looking at her nametag.
“Sookie Stackhouse,” I said, smiling shyly at getting caught.
“Claudine Crane,” she extended her hand over the counter, and it felt rude not to shake it. She’d been so nice.
Her hand was as soft as any vampire’s, though warm like mine, and something unexpected: I couldn’t read her thoughts at all. I’d have to think about that later.
Claudine put all my purchases in several bags and happily told me to please come again. I’d never seen anyone be so sincere making the same statement. I thought I might only shop at Nordstrom’s from now on.
I stopped at the market and bought groceries for my house. I was in the sudden mood for leafy greens, a thick cut of red meat, and cookies. I really wanted homemade cookies. Eric was meeting me at my house in the evening, so I had plenty of time to cook and eat. I started making a batch of cookies right away, figuring I could send some home with Jason too. He loved homemade cookies as much as I did. I mean, who doesn’t?
“Sookie’s cookies,” I hummed to myself. It had started with Gran, and Eric had liked it. Good idea for a business name.
I was in the middle of packing Tina’s things when Jason arrived. He took one look at the kitten and was a goner. Leave it to Jason to like any and all females, no matter the species.
“You wanna live with me? Huh? You wanna make my girlfriends jealous? Yes you do,” he said, in baby talk. Worse than baby talk: pet talk. “She’s cute. Where did you find her?”
“She found me one night, right outside the house. I haven’t taken her to the vet yet, but I have the money for the immunizations and the spaying. I’ll give it to you,” I offered.
“Nah! I’ll take care of it. I have a friend that works at the Petsmart in Monroe and they have that vet clinic there,” he said. Knowing Jason, this sentence translated to something like “there’s a girl who works at the Petsmart who has yet to be taken by my charms, and seeing me there with my baby kitty will make her go gaga for me.” Or something like that.
Jason went upstairs to grab the kitty carrier we’d had forever stored away. I gave him everything I’d gotten for my kitty, watching Tina as she had already made friends with Jason. She was climbing up his pant leg, and I knew he would be good to her, judging by the fact that he simply allowed it while he was putting the carrier together. I pried her loose when she got too close to his thigh.
“Come here, silly butt. I’ll come visit you,” I said, and smelled her kitty scent. It was musky, like Eric had said, but with Eric’s blood I could smell so much more on her, none of which I could decipher.
“All set,” Jason announced and I put her in the carrier. She started playing with a toy mouse Jason had put in there.
“I made cookies, do you want some?” I asked, not really waiting for his answer. I’d already wrapped up several for him to take home.
“Sookie, you’re still nice to me after everything?” he asked. To his credit he sounded very ashamed.
“You’re my brother. Let’s just move past and look forward. We’re going to need each other when we’re old,” I said and forced a smile.
Jason left and I cooked my dinner. I left my steak medium rare, but steamed my spinach. I was ravenous. I knew Eric didn’t take much blood when he fed, but he still did. Maybe that’s why I was hungrier than ever. I knew Eric was on his way because I’d felt him when he woke. I hadn’t been anxious, but it was still a comfort to feel him, like a soft hum in the background where all there had been was silence. I felt his happiness some time later, so he must have been close. Halfway through eating my dinner I felt his overwhelming love and lust, so I wasn’t surprised when he used the key I’d given him to open the back door.
I was already on my feet when the door swung open, and when he crouched and opened his arms to me I took it as an invitation. I ran, giddy as a teenager, and he caught me and swung me around as easy as you please. His smile was radiant, which earned himself several kisses all over his beautiful face.
“I missed you,” he said, hugging me tight.
“You were sleeping, silly,” I said, smoothing his hair back the way I’d found it.
He set my feet on the floor and looked up beyond me. “I interrupted your dinner, come on.” He turned me around and made me walk back to my seat, pulling it out and having me sit right back. I would have objected, knowing he needed a True Blood at least, but I was too hungry.
Eric helped himself to a True Blood and even heated it up like a pro, then joined me at the table. “How was your day?”
I told him everything about Merlotte’s, how Jason and I made our peace, and he’d stopped by and gotten Tina to keep her. I told him I’d gone to the market, but completely avoided telling him about my other shopping trip. That was a surprise for later.
“I thought I smelled something sweet as I walked in,” he said, peering at the cookies I’d made, or what was left of them. “Sookie’s cookies, yes?”
Sometimes Eric spoke as if he hadn’t spoken English for very long. I chuckled. “Yes. You really like that name, huh?”
“Ever since your grandmother dubbed them that way. I think it’s a great name for a business,” he was smiling widely. Uh-oh.
“I don’t think I could make that many cookies,” I said, nipping that thought in the bud.
Eric shrugged. Like he knew anything about food anyway. “Movie night tonight? I brought several.” He reached into his cargo pants’ pockets and pulled six DVD’s total. “I wasn’t sure what you were in the mood for, so I brought Spaceballs, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Avatar, The 300, The Birdcage, and Mr. Roberts.”
I looked at the movies on the table. I had no problem with a movie night in my house. I wasn’t ready to share him with anybody else yet. “I think My Big Fat Greek Wedding is appropriate. Can we watch that one?” I was laughing, imagining if there ever would be a movie named My Big Fat Vampire Wedding, complete with manipulating vampire queens, and flying couples on the dance floor.
“Of course. It’s lady’s choice tonight,” he said, and waggled his eyebrows. The talk of lady’s choice made me think of Claudine’s brother and of Claudine herself. But if I brought up the subject now I’d ruin my own surprise.
I polished off my plate and washed it quickly. I really, really wanted him to open his presents. “I have a surprise for you. Let’s go to the living room and we can watch the movie after my surprise.”
Eric let me lead him through the long hallway to the front of the house and the living room. I made him sit on the sofa. “I’ll be right back,” I said, and ran away. I returned with all the pretty boxes precariously balanced on my arms and set them on the coffee table.
Eric’s face was priceless. “Sookie… what did you do?” he asked. If he hadn’t been a vampire I’d have said he was breathless.
“I don’t know when your birthday is, but you must have one, so this is a belated birthday present,” I said, almost hopping wanting him to open the presents. Okay… Now I knew what he’d felt like when he waited for me to open the box with my ring.
“A morning gift,” he said, still astonished, looking at the packages.
“Huh?” I asked, none too eloquently.
“I can’t believe I forgot your morning gift, but you didn’t forget mine.”
“Eric,” I said his name in a warning tone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but may I remind you that you gave me a car last night? Besides, it’s night. Can you please open your presents?”
He looked up. “You got these for me?”
I hit my head with the heel of my hand. “Yes, honey. They’re for you. Is there any way I can persuade you to open your presents some time tonight?”
Eric smiled and nodded, sitting back on the sofa and patting his lap. I was being summoned. “Come here, my love.”
I rolled my eyes. Finally! At least I could hand them to him. I sat on his lap and grabbed a present, putting it on my lap. He didn’t seem interested. Instead he drew me close, his huge hand moving my face so he could kiss me.
“Thank you,” he murmured against my lips, and kissed me some more.
“Don’t thank me yet,” I said, pulling away. “Open them first.”
“I haven’t gotten a gift in a very long time.”
“I’m about to take them away,” I teased, shaking the box on my lap.
He smiled wide again and looked at it, at least. “It’s so pretty. Do I just rip it?”
“Rip it,” I encouraged.
He did. I held it in place and he ripped the paper easily. Shoot, if he could make smithereens out of my clothes, paper should have been nothing to him. This box contained a light blue cashmere sweater that I thought would look pretty with his eyes.
“This is beautiful, Sookie, but why?”
I held up the sweater to his shoulders. It seemed big enough. “Do you really need to ask me why I’m giving you presents?”
Eric hugged me tight, resting his face on my chest. “No, you don’t,” he said. I hugged him back. I wasn’t sure what was going on. There was nothing but love coming through our bond, as far as I could tell.
Nope, I was wrong. I was hit broadside by an infinite sadness. It was as if somebody had punched me in the gut and I lost all my breath. I took a deep one quickly. What the hell?
“Eric? Honey?” I pulled his face up. His eyes were rimmed with blood and my heart sank. “What’s wrong? Oh, my God! What’s wrong?” I asked, thinking the worst, wiping his bloody tears with my fingers. I couldn’t even fathom what the worst could possibly be at this point. A death sentence from the Queen?
“Nothing is wrong. Sookie, you’ve made me so happy,” he paused.
I looked at him like he’d grown another head. “I’m not getting you any more presents if this is the way you’re going to be.” I felt my own tears prickling my eyes, and I was stopping them effectively until I blinked and they jumped from my eyes. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. Now you’re making me cry.”
Eric smiled and laughed, pulling that ever-present handkerchief of his from a back pocket. He wiped my eyes first, then my bloody fingers, then his own eyes. “Let’s open more presents, shall we?”
He opened the rest, enjoying ripping the paper a little too much. I think I ended up with ribbon and paper behind the couch, under it, in the fireplace, on top of the mantel. I was pretty sure there were pieces in the kitchen, even. He liked everything. I was proud and a half of myself.
We watched the movie sort of tangled around each other on the sofa. Eric was a great movie buddy, but sometimes the things he said or asked reminded me he wasn’t just a regular guy. For one, he spoke Greek, though he wasn’t Greek. Then I had to explain to him what a Bundt pan was so he could get the joke of the Bundt cake.
Later we watched Mr. Roberts, since I’d never seen it before, and I ended up hooting with laughter at the “Whooo did it?” line, when I found myself pinned to the sofa under a very large vampire.
“I love the way you laugh,” he said, and his lust was pushing itself into me, bending me to its will.
Eric’s lips on mine were soft at first, tasting me, exploring me as if it was our first time kissing. His tongue pried my mouth open gently, searching for mine, asking it to come out and play. I touched mine to his, tasting him too. We battled lazily, neither one of us claiming victory or admitting defeat. I shifted a little to wrap my legs around him. He rubbed his hardness against the ridge of my jeans, causing a sweet friction that made me respond immediately. I couldn’t help the moan that escaped into his mouth. He responded with one of his own, and I thought I might come just from hearing him.
Eric’s hips continued the motion they knew so well, pressing and releasing, his tongue mimicking the movement inside my mouth. I was so hot that when his hand found the bare skin of my belly I jerked at how cold it felt. His hand continued traveling under my shirt, up to my bra, tugging, releasing my breast and caressing the nipple with his thumb. His mouth left mine to lick the nipple through my shirt while he pinched it, making me gasp at the unexpected feeling.
He pushed my shirt up and off, pulling the bra down so he could taste my skin and drive me crazy with desire. “Please, Eric, please,” I heard myself beg. I’d turned into a quivering mess of need.
“What’s that, dear one? What do you want?” he asked from my breast, his voice deep and husky making the wetness between my legs spread into my panties. I felt so empty.
“I want you, Eric,” I said, stating the obvious. With my legs still wrapped around him, he hugged me tight and stood up, walking to the bedroom with me stuck to him like a writhing barnacle.
As soon as I could I set my feet on the floor and reached for his T-shirt, pulling it off him with a little help. I was eye level to a perky pink nipple just begging for attention. I pulled Eric to me, nipping lightly at the nipple then licking it, doing to him what he liked to do to me. His own hands were busy undoing our pants, and once we were completely naked testing to see how ready I was for him.
I wrapped my hand around him, caressing the soft veined skin, and making Eric groan. I smiled to myself, feeling dizzy with power. I pushed him to the bed and knelt beside him. I wanted to taste him, to make him writhe at my attentions. I licked him like a lollipop before I put him in my mouth, enjoying all the soft noises coming from the top of the bed. What I didn’t expect was him lifting my hips and moving me to straddle his face. He kissed me softly before his tongue started exploring me like only he could.
I was getting better at pleasuring him, and lasted much longer than a couple of minutes before my mouth protested and cramped. By then Eric had enough of not being inside me, and in a quick move he had me pinned under him again, holding my hands up above my head while he glided easily inside me.
“Oh, so warm,” Eric said in my ear, making me shiver with his own cool breath. He licked and kissed my neck as he pumped inside me, stretching as he pushed deeper. I wrapped my legs around his hips, unable to think about anything but the way he filled me so completely, and how good it felt.
“Look at me, my love,” his soft voice reminded me that he liked to look into my eyes while we made love. He let go of my hands and let me run my fingers through his hair, down his neck, running my nails lightly on his back. His face was wild and glorious, his fangs extended all the way and his eyes dark, everything that spoke of his want. He wanted me in every way.
“Bite me, Eric, please,” I begged, offering my neck. I wanted to feel his euphoria inside me. Instead of my neck, he curled above me and lapped at my nipple lovingly, biting the breast at the same time that he closed his mouth around my nipple. I exploded into a thousand Sookies, each and every one of us writhing in ecstasy.
Eric’s own orgasm was glorious. I was able to come back into myself to enjoy watching as this mighty man was overtaken, shouting words in a language I’d never heard, groaning and grunting with effort. In the end he collapsed on top of me, taking deep slow breaths at my neck and humming on the exhale.
I drifted into a half sleep, where everything I thought about turned into a dream. Claudine, the girl who’d helped me at Nordstrom’s, turned into a Fairy Godmother helping me get dressed to go to the ball where Eric, the Prince, was waiting to dance with me. My Prius turned into a giant pumpkin carriage and Tina into a horse. I thought it was funny when the horse meowed and I started laughing.
“What’s funny, Svanmeyja?” I heard Eric’s soft voice.
“Tina meowed,” I said, still giggling but coming out of my dream.
“She’s a cat. I believe they do that,” he said, laughing softly at me and kissing the top of my cheek. I was coming back slowly, but already felt that Eric had shifted his weight off me to lie beside me. He was looking down at me, propped up on one elbow, when I opened my eyes.
“She was a horse in my dream,” I said. “What did you call me?” I asked frowning. I’d just realized he’d used a foreign word to address me.
“Svanmeyja. It means Swan Maiden, another name for a Valkyrie,” he explained.
“I like it,” I said, still looking up at him. His hair was a mess. I loved it. It made me wonder how messy mine was, but not enough to check.
“I have a gift for you too. It’s out in the car. Do you want it?” he asked, his eyes sparkling.
I couldn’t help it. I really did want to know what he was scheming now. “Okay. I need to use the bathroom anyway.”
I took my time in the bathroom because, to my great chagrin, I’d started my period. I hadn’t felt it come along, but then I figured that Eric’s blood would have cured me of the cramping and bloating. Before Eric returned I grabbed stuff to get dressed for bed, took the quickest shower in history, and brushed my teeth.
Eric’s face was more than disappointed when he saw me dressed. “What happened?”
“I, uh…” Out with it, Sookie! “I just got my period,” I mumbled embarrassed.
I eyed him like he’d lost his mind. “So I’m bleeding from a non-wound,” I explained slowly.
“Come here and look at your gift,” he said, patting my side of the bed again. We’d claimed our favorite sides on both our beds. Mine was always the side closest to the bathroom.
“Did you go outside naked?” I asked, because he was certainly naked under my covers.
“Does it matter? Anybody who would have seen me would have enjoyed the view. I’m merely sharing,” he smiled widely and winked.
“I don’t feel like sharing,” I pouted a little.
“Sookie… you live in the middle of nowhere. I believe an owl saw me. Perhaps a cricket.”
“Fine. What’s that?” I asked, looking behind him at a corner of what appeared to be a piece of paper.
It wasn’t paper. It was a wall calendar: “Fangtasia Hunks: 12 Months of Your Favorite Vampires.”
“It was Pam’s idea. We had the pictures taken in July and we’re going to start selling them during Halloween week. What do you think?” Eric asked.
I was speechless. I turned it around to look at the little summary of what the calendar contained, and there were twelve different tiny vampires looking back at me in different stages of undress. One of them was my husband.
“Can I open it?” I asked.
I opened the plastic packaging and peeked at January. My breath caught. Eric’s fine ass called to my eyes first. All I could see was one exposed cheek, but it was enough. He was leaning against a bed, one leg up on the mattress, the other still on the floor, and he was as naked in the picture as he was beside me. A fuzzy blanket had been strategically placed over Mr. Happy and his fellows. Eric’s expression was seductive, and my mouth started watering on its own accord.
“Holy God in Heaven! And to think he’s beside me…” I breathed out.
“You like it?”
“I do, though it won’t function very well as a calendar if I can’t bring myself to turn the page,” I teased.
He chuckled. “It’s not your morning gift, but I still meant to give it to you.”
“What’s a morning gift, anyway?”
“The gift we’d give each other the morning after our wedding. I can’t believe I forgot,” he mumbled the last part.
“Oh!” he meant if he was still a Viking. “Eric, honey, you gave me a car. I think that’s gift enough.”
He arched an eyebrow but dropped the subject. Knowing him, the subject would still be on his mind until he got me something. I should just get used to it.