“We are here,” I heard Eric’s deep voice very close to my ear. I turned toward it and felt fabric on my cheek, plus I was a bit dizzy.
“Where is here?” I asked, trying to open my eyes. I was so tired! I felt that weird sensation of being carried, which was probably exactly what was happening to me.
“Home,” Eric answered me as we moved.
I must have fallen asleep in his arms again because I didn’t notice he’d settled me on the bed, and only woke up again when I started feeling cold. I groaned my discontent and Eric caressed my hair and shushed me a little.
“I’m just getting you comfortable,” he said, already done with my shirt and slowly stripping me of my pants.
My eyes fluttered open with a lot of effort. I just wanted to keep on sleeping, but I knew I would sleep better if I took a shower first. I looked around me and found myself in Eric’s downstairs bedroom, the one I hadn’t been to yet. I was touched.
“This is your day bedroom,” I said looking around a little bit more. It was mostly as I remembered it, with the king size mattress, the soft white sheets, and the dark wood bed. The only things that had changed were the amount of clothes on the floor (I usually made sure they made it to the hamper) and the reading materials on the left nightstand.
“I’m not taking my eyes off you,” he said, his face stoic. I knew inside he was seething mad at what had happened to me and at Bill. “You’re sleeping here.”
I closed my eyes. There was no room for argument if I’d had any. I knew where this was going and I had a decision to make. I was too tired to make it, though. Any other night I would have fought with him and told him to get those notions out of his head. Tonight, however, I felt tired and vulnerable. I felt my exhaustion soul deep, to the point that I felt like crying. All I wanted was Eric to take care of me.
“Tell me later how you found me,” I said, my eyes still closed. I took deep breaths and let Eric tend to me. I felt the bed indent by my side, and his hair started trailing a path over my face. He was sniffing me. I let him. He needed to make sure I hadn’t been touched. I understood this and decided it was worth the embarrassment of having him smell my crotch to set his mind at ease… even if I did need a shower.
“I smell blood,” Eric said, his hair tickling my thighs.
I grimaced. “I’m about to have my period,” I mumbled mortified. I opened my eyes and pushed at him, sitting up as fast as I could. “I need a shower,” I announced and got up. That was a bad idea. The room started spinning the moment I did that and I almost lost my footing. He grabbed me quickly and steadied me. Then he seemed to think better of it and hugged me.
“I was so worried. You have no idea Sookie. I couldn’t feel you and for one terrible moment I thought…”
“That I was dead,” I said and almost choked. Yes, I did have an idea of how he felt: the desperation, the feeling that if Eric wasn’t in my life I would be lost. I hugged him hard, as hard as my tired limbs permitted.
Eric picked me up and carried me to his bathroom. He turned on the shower and helped me take off my underwear. He was still wearing his clothes when he got in the shower with me, refusing to let me help him take them off. He turned me around and washed me: shampooed my hair, ran conditioner over it, soaped me and rinsed me. All I had to do was stand there. I closed my eyes, enjoying the scents that surrounded me and his hands all over me. It was more than sexual. He was being tender.
His gentle touch continued as he dried me with a fluffy towel that smelled like him. It didn’t escape my notice that he was replacing whatever and whoever he’d smelled on me with his own scents: his soap, his shampoo, his used towel. Eric took off his soaked clothes and dried himself quickly, taking me back to bed and tucking me in beside him.
“Thank you,” I said suppressing a yawn. I met his eyes and he still seemed worried. It probably had to do with the bruise on my head. “What’s on your mind?”
“Will you take my blood?” he asked. The worry hadn’t left his expression. If anything he looked more worried now. He’d already explained to me the blood sharing and blood bonding, so his apprehension was understandable. I might not want it. By the same token, he might not want it.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I don’t want you to resent it.”
Eric’s worry turned to surprise. “You’re the one who might resent it, not me. I can’t bear the thought of someone taking you away from me again. Tonight…” he paused, looking away as if searching for words. When he looked at me again I read anger. “Tonight my desire to have you back in my arms overrode my desire for vengeance. It is the only reason that Compton is still around.”
“You have to know something. I have to ask you something,” I said, unsure of what was more important: telling him I loved him, or asking him if he loved me. I decided I was the more courageous of the two as far as feelings were concerned. He looked at me expectantly and waited for me to talk. “I love you,” I said and looked away, but not before putting my hand over his mouth. I wasn’t done. “I’m in love with you, Eric. I understand that you may not feel the same way about me. I know that feelings are not your strongest point, but…” I couldn’t finish. My thoughts had atrophied at the magnitude of what I’d just confessed.
Eric kissed my hand then pulled it away from his mouth. I still refused to look at him. I feared to find pity for my weak human heart. “Won’t you look at me, my Sookie?”
His voice was deep and gentle. He ran his fingers over my cheek while I continued to stare at the small expanse of white between us. I knew I had to look at him. I’d been brave in confessing my love; I had to be brave for the rest. I met his brilliant blues and… lost my breath.
“I love you,” he murmured, his voice felt like the kiss he gave me right after he said those three wonderful words. “I love you, Sookie,” he said against my lips, and I couldn’t stop the wide smile that blossomed on mine. “It took you getting kidnapped for me to realize it,” he chuckled.
“What are you going to discover about yourself next time I get kidnapped?” I asked and made him laugh. We laughed together. He was like my Eric, but more. So much more. This was the part of him I’d glimpsed and wanted, the man (vampire) who loved me and loved his life and loved me to be a part of it.
“Perhaps I will find how much I enjoy knitting,” he said between guffaws.
“Maybe I’ll get myself kidnapped more often, so you can make me a sweater!” I snorted. It was deranged of me to be so happy after getting rescued from abduction, but it was easy to be happy next to Eric.
“Oh, dear one, please don’t do that to me again!” he said and hugged me, crushing my face into his chest.
“You got it,” I said, letting his chest hair tickle me. I sighed. I knew that if he asked me to move in with him at that moment I would answer “yes, a million times yes!” But he wasn’t going to ask just yet, and I needed a little time to clear my head. I wanted to make sure that when I said “yes,” it would be because I loved him and wanted to start making a life with him, not because I was scared. I remembered when Eric’s maker had come into my house and how scared I’d been then. I would still need a place to go to if something like that happened again.
A knock on the door made me jump within Eric’s arms. He held me tighter and called out a deep “Enter,” which in the fogginess of my exhaustion I found funny.
“I hope Sookie is indecent,” I heard Pam say. There was a pause and then a mock sigh of exasperation. “I can’t see anything,” she whined.
I giggled and Eric growled. “Did you bring Sookie’s clothes?”
“Yes, yes. It’s all upstairs,” she said in a dismissive tone.
Eric pulled away a little bit to look at me. “Do you want your nightgown?” he asked me, running his fingers through my damp hair. I bit my lip and shook my head. He smiled, reading my expression for what it was. His lips descended on mine with undisguised lust.
“Can I watch?” Pam said and cackled from the door. She left before Eric could throw something at her.
“How long have you loved me?” Eric asked, reaching between us to ply me gently. His fingers sent tiny tremors all over my body which began in my middle and radiated to my fingertips and toes.
I gasped. “Longer than you will believe.”
“Love at first sight?” he asked between kisses. His mouth was slowly moving to my neck, his fingers busy caressing around my little nub, and the sensations were making me forget how tired I was.
“Yes,” I answered nearly breathless. He was getting me ready, teasing and probing. His clever fingers were especially clever tonight.
“I remember how much I wanted to rip that pretty dress off you. But your smile, Sookie,” he pulled away to look at me again. “You smiled at me when we were outside the club, and it was as if you knew me then.”
I shrugged one shoulder. “I felt as if I did know you.”
Eric turned and brought me with him until I was on top and straddling his hips. His hand was still between us, but this time it moved to grab his gracious plenty and guide it to my entrance. I directed the movement and took him inside slowly, watching as his features filled with pure bliss. I was using his belly as leverage but he took my hands and put them around his neck. Our bodies glided past each other as we made love and I found that I couldn’t stop kissing him. I kissed his chest and licked each nipple, making them bud for my waiting mouth. I kissed his lips and sucked on his tongue, tasting his sweet saliva. I kissed his neck like he’d kissed mine, running my tongue down and across his left clavicle, and back up to his shoulder.
“Bite, Sookie. Go on, lover,” he said, holding my hips and taking over the thrusting. The way he said “lover,” it was just as I remembered. It was a caress, a soft entreaty to be his one and only, and to make him my one and only as well. I wanted us to be one again. I bit hard and drew blood on the first try, sucking on his skin to make sure it flowed into me. It was exquisite to have him thoroughly inside me, his manhood and his blood. I was surrounded by him in every way, inside and out.
Eric bucked his hips under me, holding me tight as he continued to thrust, moaning as I sucked on his skin to get his blood. He tasted so good, and the moment was so perfect, I felt overwhelmed. I felt my tears smart my eyes at the same time that my orgasm blazed through my body. I was barely aware of Eric’s grunts at my neck as he sucked on my blood and had his own amazing moment.
I was completely spent and became a limp rag doll on top of him. He wasn’t in any hurry to move me, just continued his sweet caresses over my back and down to my butt. My tears slid down to his chest and I sniffled, at a loss as to why I was crying. It was the first time I’d cried during sex. Maybe it was hormones.
“Lover, did I hurt you?” Eric said immediately, turning us so he could look at me. He made sure the wound on my temple was healing, and then looked down the rest of my body.
“I’m not usually this weepy,” I said, horrified that I was crying in front of him, again!
“I would have to take your word on that. Where did I hurt you?”
“I must have…”
“You didn’t, Eric, please believe me.”
“Am I to take your tears as a sign that you’re unhappy?”
I smiled, even through my tears. “I’m very happy, maybe that’s why I’m crying.”
Eric’s frown cleared and he shook his head. He hugged me tight. He was at a loss too, not knowing what to do or say to soothe me, since I’d just told him I was happy.
“I’m happy too,” he said in his deep serious voice. “I was not myself when I thought I’d lost you. I will kill Compton.” He growled the last sentence
I was not going to be the one to beg for Bill’s life. Bill had taken it too far and now he was the mercy of the sheriff. “Do what you have to do,” I said, then remembered every single thing Bill had done to me, from drinking blood from another person with me in the same hotel room, to attacking me in the cemetery in lieu of killing me, to professing his love when all he was doing was procuring me for Sophie-Anne, and in particular what had happened inside that dark car trunk. “Kill him,” I sneered, forever thankful to Eric for peeling back that trunk and getting me out of Jackson.
“Your wish is my command. When I went to your house I could smell him around your front porch. I called in every favor I was owed. I’m glad you were in Gervaise’s care. He understands better than others.”
“You told him I am yours,” I summarized.
“Of course, and you ARE mine. Now you are irrevocably mine. We are bonded. No vampire would dare take you from me.”
“How would they know I’m yours? Do I smell like you now?”
“Yes, and I will introduce you as mine,” Eric said.
“Do you know why Bill wanted me? Was he just trying to take me to the Queen?” I asked, fearing it was more than that.
“I don’t know yet. I have sent a formal complaint to her majesty that Bill took you. If she grants it then I can interrogate him before I carry out his sentence. If not, then my methods will require a quicker death.” Eric wasn’t kidding. He was going to kill Bill whether he had permission to do so or not.
I didn’t speak because my own grievance with Bill went much further than I could explain to Eric. Or to anyone, for that matter. I snuggled closer and closed my eyes, trying not to think of anything else and sleep.
That night, dreams of being abducted visited me in all their gory detail. I’d lost count already how many times I’d been on the brink of death, but the abductions were still fresh in my memory. Neave and Lochlan played a dreadfully gruesome role in the nightmare, until my screams broke through my dream. I woke up with Eric holding me tight, my arms and legs flailing helplessly, moving them in a way I hadn’t been able to at the time I was under the fairies’ control.
“Why were they so cruel? Why couldn’t they just kill me?” I cried, screamed. I was asking Eric questions that he couldn’t answer.
“Please Sookie, please tell me. Who hurt you?”
“I never did anything to them! And nobody came, nobody came. You didn’t come, Eric, why? Why?” I was hysterical by then, half awake and half asleep.
“I’m here, darling. Who hurt you?”
“The fairies! They cut me, they ate my flesh, they fucked in front of me. They made me scream… they… they cut me,” I said again, looking down at my naked body. A small lamp was on and I could see perfectly well that my skin was smooth where I’d thought I had scars. It took me a long minute to understand why I was whole.
I buried my face in my hands, crying away all the hurt and putting the memories away again. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said to Eric, who could now feel every single thing I felt too. I looked up and saw as dark tears began to stain his cheeks. He’d been trying to hold me but I’d pushed him away. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it.” I reached for him and wiped his tears with my bare fingers.
“Who hurt you so badly, Sookie? I could feel your pain,” he demanded.
“Remember I told you about my fairy kin?” I asked; he nodded. “When the water fairies discover how much I mean to my family they will send the two torturers, Neave and Lochlan.”
Eric seemed to blanch, if that was possible. I’d left that part out the first time I’d told him. He was so shocked that it took him a moment to even look like he was thinking, and longer to actually speak. “If you’re a vampire you won’t mean anything to them.”
It was my turn to blanch. He was right, of course. The surest way to keep the fairies away was to die. I just didn’t feel suicidal enough to want to accept that fate. I turned it around on Eric.
“If your maker had offered you to live or die, what would you have chosen?” I asked him.
“I chose to live. I drank the blood,” he answered, trying to outsmart me but knowing that his argument was invalid. He gave up quickly.
However, I’d had a change of heart as of late. “If you think it’s the only way to save me, I give you permission to change me. You or Pam, nobody else,” I qualified.
A small smile graced his lips. “You would be magnificent. I would let you drain those fairies all by yourself. I would even hold them down for you.”
“That’s very sweet of you, but it still sounds creepy to me,” I shook my head, half admitting to myself that having the ability to, at least, kill those fairies would feel freeing and empowering. “I’m sorry I had that dream again. You can blame Bill.”
“I intend to,” he said, gathering me in his arms and snuggling back under the covers. He was silent for a few minutes, and I was letting my heart rate settle back to normal when he spoke again. “It killed me to hear you say that I didn’t come for you. I will always come for you.”
“I know, baby. I know.” I caressed his chest. I did know.
I held Eric’s hand so tight that I was glad he was a vampire and able to take it. A human would have winced or removed his hand from mine already. I was not ready for this, even though I’d assured Eric that I was. He’d offered me the option of staying with Pam at Fangtasia or coming along with him. Those had been my only options. I would have balked, but I was still smarting from getting kidnapped and the nightmare that had followed. I was clinging to Eric like he was by big, tall and sexy security blanket. It helped that since we were completely blood bonded, having him nearby was a comfort to me. He didn’t mind. He wasn’t ready to let me out of his sight anytime soon.
We entered the Shreveport Police Department’s barracks and went straight to the vampire section. Since Eric was the sheriff, he knew the lay of the land, so to speak. Of course, the vampires that worked for the SPD didn’t work for Eric, but there really was no other way for the human authorities to deal with vampires than to have a vampire authority handle the punishments. That was Eric. I’d known very little about it before, but now I’d been experiencing it firsthand, ever since the cops took Long Shadow away and Eric was in charge of meting out his punishment.
Now it was Bill’s turn. He’d been transported from Gervaise’s area in Baton Rouge back to Shreveport. Eric had the Queen’s order in his hand and handed it to the captain of the vampire police squad. The vampire gave Eric wide berth to do what he had come here to do. But first… some answers.
We entered a room lined in silver, and I felt Eric’s strength wane. Inside the room they were as strong as humans within their bodies. Bill was as strong as a man of his height and weight would be. Eric was significantly stronger, as he was larger, and regardless, he was the older of the two vampires. Silver affected him, but not as much as it affected Bill.
Across from where we stood was a cell with bars covered in tarnished silver. There was no one to bother with polishing them, what would be the use? Making them look pretty for the prisoners? It wasn’t going to happen.
Bill stood inside the cell. He’d been pacing until we entered the area. Behind us, the captain stood to bear witness to Eric’s interrogation. I was the victim confronting my attacker. This felt like a primetime drama: Law & Order Vampire, or some such nonsense. Eric got in position, letting go of my hand and standing half in front of me. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking even larger than his usual, filling up with air and anger.
I studied Bill. He was stoic, unrepentant, unafraid. His eyes roamed over me and they were empty of emotion. It almost hurt me to see him so distant. I’d loved him. He was hurting me now and he didn’t even know it. It didn’t matter to my heart that Eric was my everything now. At one point Bill had been mine, or so I had thought. He’d professed his love but they had been empty words, and I’d believed them. The only time I believed he loved me was when I was finally out of his life and he couldn’t have me. Way to regret what he had lost, I thought to myself. It’s true what they say that it’s hard to forget one’s first love.
My hand moved of its own accord to touch Eric somehow. I needed the connection. I needed to know that there was somebody who did love me as much as I loved him. Eric had gone above and beyond what I thought he was capable of doing and feeling for me. I touched his back just above the waistband of his dark pants and he relaxed his shoulders, turning to look at me. His mouth was set in a grim line, but his eyes were asking me if I was all right. He must have seen the tears in my eyes because he opened his arm and brought me close against him.
The anger rose within him to a fever pitch as he turned back to Bill. “You hurt my blood bonded. You abducted her and took her from her home. Why?” Eric’s voice was hot with ire, booming through the small space and resonating inside my body, as close as I was to him.
Bill seemed to react to the news that I was bonded to Eric, but otherwise kept his cool. He was very good at that. “Once the Queen finds out what she is, she will not be yours for much longer.”
“And what is that?” Eric spat.
“A time traveler.”
I froze at Bill’s words and felt like the room started to spin. I had to keep my cool and pretend that Bill was crazy as a shithouse rat. And by golly, that was exactly what I did. I snorted and hooted, becoming almost hysterical with laughter. It was the reaction I would expect from anybody if they heard the truth from my lips. Eric seemed to chuckle beside me.
“Did you suffer a head wound during the Civil War?” Eric asked. Even the captain was laughing behind us.
Bill was not amused. “She knows the future because she was in the future. Let her tell you how she has traveled to the past,” he said and suddenly looked smug. I sobered up quickly.
Eric didn’t let me say anything. “She’s psychic, you moron. I’ve met psychics before, but of course, you are probably too young and not well-traveled to have met any.”
“Don’t believe me, Northman. She is your blood bonded,” Bill pointed out.
“Exactly, which means that you should be put to death for even looking at her!” Eric shouted, done with the laughing and not caring for Bill’s theories. He let go of me and started to charge the cell but stopped before touching the bars. “Don’t you ever look at her again,” he said. This time his voice was dripping with venom and a promise of a swift death.
“I’m looking, and she’s delicious. She’s had my blood too. Did she tell you that?” Bill spewed out. I started looking around for a stake.
Eric deflated. It was time for damage control.
“If you had shown up for our meeting on time, Bill, I would not have been beaten to within an inch of my life to begin with, asshole. Next time I’ll let the Rattrays drain your ass and save me the aggravation.” I was spitting mad. Then I remembered that I could touch the bars. I stepped close and wrapped my hands around them. “Come closer Bill, and let a girl hit you!”
I felt a pair of strong arms tug me away from the bars. “You’ll get your chance if that is your wish,” Eric whispered in my ear.
Now, I’m not a violent person, and the times I’ve hit or killed have almost always been in self defense, but considering the shit Bill had put me through and my state of mind at that particular moment… let’s just say he was lucky the captain didn’t offer me the stake hanging from his belt. Oh, yeah! I knew where it was and knew how to use it.
The captain pressed a button and two burly vampires walked in carrying chains and wearing a lot of leather everywhere. Bill didn’t offer any resistance as they wrapped the chains around him and led him to the center of the room and to a sturdy metal chair. The smell of burning flesh was starting to drift to me, but all it made me want to do was rejoice. Once he was secured to the chair, all the vampires turned to me.
“The Queen wants him alive, but he is to be punished,” Eric said. I didn’t turn to look at him. I kept looking at Bill trying to see something, anything, in his eyes telling me he was sorry in any way. There was nothing. He was empty inside.
It seemed that it was ladies first so I approached Bill. “Did you let the Rattrays beat me to within an inch of my life on purpose? Did you do it so you could get your blood inside me?” I stared into his eyes, registering a bit of surprise and something else. At that moment I was convinced he’d done it on purpose.
I wasn’t Jason Stackhouse’s sister for nothing. I delivered a right hand hook to his nose that made Bill almost topple, chair and all. It hurt me like a motherfucker but I wasn’t done.
“Did you seduce me to procure me for the Queen?”
Bill didn’t answer again, so I hit him in the throat. I didn’t care if he didn’t need to breathe. If he was not going to talk and answer me, then I wouldn’t feel bad about injuring his larynx or trachea.
And then I lost it. Without speaking, without asking, and without Bill knowing why I was hitting him so hard that I was injuring myself, I went for it. I kicked him, punched him, over and over, wishing I had a bat, a chain, a gun! Inside I was exacting revenge for him raping me, for his lies, for the fear, for the love that hadn’t been returned, for my having another dead person on my conscience, for my pain. Bill kept healing and I kept punching and screaming at how little I was hurting him and how much I was hurting myself.
I stopped and looked at myself covered in blood, both mine and Bill’s. “I can’t do this,” I said, but I was thinking “this isn’t me.” Yet it was me. Had I become someone else? Bill now was paying for everything he’d ever done to me, past, present and future. And yet he had saved me from the fairies, gotten silver poisoning, redeemed himself in that way. I looked back at him, to see if there was anything, if I’d gotten through. His puffy eyes were healing and I could see his hate. Nothing else. No pity, no understanding, no atonement.
“I hate you too, Bill Compton. What would your wife say if she knew what you did to me, or your children?” I asked, but my voice had given out, so it came out as a harsh whisper. It had the intended effect. He hated me more for reminding him of his human life. “Your sister Sarah, the one you loved so much, what would she say?” I pushed.
Bill’s nostrils flared. I’d finally hit him below the belt. And I had one last thing. “Your progeny married a Bellefleur. Caroline Bellefleur is your great-great-great-great-granddaughter, and she’s in ruins just like Bell Rive. What’s more, I will tell her you are related so that you can’t give her your money because she won’t accept it.”
I could feel the smile tugging at my lips. There was something freeing in having Bill hate me. I turned to Eric who was watching me with undisguised pride. I didn’t need to be a mind reader to know he was sizing me up for a role as his vampire child. He saw another fighter, like Pam. I didn’t blame him. But I was still plenty human.
“Your turn,” I said to him in a croak.
Eric smiled and moved to Bill. I moved away with every intention of not watching, but I couldn’t help it. I was more than curious.
“Compton must be able to type,” the captain reminded Eric. Eric didn’t look at the other vampire but nodded his understanding.
I was taken aback when he lowered Bill, still attached to the chair, onto the floor. He did it almost delicately. It was a strange thing to watch. Bill ended up on his back, his torso, arms and legs chained to the chair, so that he looked like an upside down beetle. Eric towered over him, looking like the picture of civility.
“You are not to speak of Sookie, look at Sookie, or even think of Sookie. She is mine. The abduction of your sheriff’s blood bonded would usually carry the penalty of death, but your queen has spared you that fate. After tonight you will leave my area and make your home elsewhere. You owe me two hundred thousand for your indiscretion, and I expect the money in two days. Do you understand?” Eric was watching Bill closely, waiting for the answer.
“Yes, Sheriff,” Bill said through clenched teeth.
What happened next occurred so fast that I didn’t see it coming, only saw it happen. With a force I didn’t know he possessed being inside the silver-lined room, Eric brought his boot-clad foot up and over Bill’s chest, and with amazing strength slammed it down. The sound of bone and sinew giving way was as loud as a train and horrid. Bill’s scream died as soon as it began. I couldn’t watch and turned away. Curiosity, after all, killed the cat.