The impossibility of sleep meant that I saw every single tear that Eric shed for his maker, even while he slept. Every time I saw one, I tried to send peace and comfort through our bond – but doubted I was having much success. That was why I couldn’t sleep. I kept trying to help Eric with his grief, something which he would feel whether I liked it or not, whether I understood it or not, and whether I approved of it or not.
Not that there was anything to approve. It was just the way I felt.
Perhaps that was the reason that he wasn’t feeling my comfort.
The effort it took me to rearrange my thoughts on the matter was more than I could handle. I was the cause of Eric’s pain. Directly or indirectly, it was my fault that he was grieving. It didn’t matter that he was going to grieve anyway. It didn’t matter that Ocella would die no matter what. My hand had caused the grief, and that was unpardonable.
At around two in the afternoon, I couldn’t stay in bed anymore. I needed to move. The energy expenditure was colossal. I could feel my body using itself to fuel my wakeful hours when I wasn’t supposed to be awake. Just because I could stay awake didn’t mean I should, or that it was healthy. It was most unhealthy and went against nature. But there was no way I would be able to continue watching Eric cry in his sleep, or feel his unfathomable grief. I had to occupy my mind somehow.
My jewelry case had many things in it that Eric liked to give me. If he saw something he liked or thought I would like, he would get it for me. He was never extravagant, knowing my tastes quite well, but yet nothing inside the box felt extra special to me. The gifts that usually meant the most had always been gestures – even if they had cost money. Like the time he fixed my driveway. Or when he bought me a brand new bed. The bed was upstairs. It was tangible, but not suitable to make into a cluviel dor.
Inside my drawers I found clothes and lingerie. There were several bottles of expensive perfume on the dresser; some were mine, some were Eric’s. This was something that, as vampires, we had to splurge on. The more expensive the perfume, the better the quality and the better it smelled, and with our heightened senses it made a difference. Not until I became a vampire did the term “cheap perfume” take on a whole different meaning.
As a last resort I looked inside Eric’s jewelry case, not even a case, rather a small box that he kept inside his sock drawer. I’d seldom looked inside. He wasn’t one for jewelry. His wedding ring was a simple gold band that he wore because he thought it would be fair that if I wore one, then he should wear one as well. He had a few watches in their own boxes. He did have a few knotted gold chains, which only he knew why he kept. But, in a place of honor inside the small wooden box, I found a tiny millefiori bead. I’d seen it in passing and hadn’t bothered to ask him what it was, why it was there, how old it was exactly, or if it was part of another piece that broke.
The bead was not perfectly smooth, or particularly bright, but it was pretty. I’d seen millefiori used in necklaces and earrings before. Even my grandmother had had a necklace or two. Usually the jewelry wasn’t very expensive, which added kindle to my curiosity about the lone trinket. If it wasn’t worth much, then why was it in a place of honor inside a jewelry box? Obviously because it meant something. I would ask later.
What else did Eric have that I didn’t know about? What did Pam have? Curiosity got the better of me and I went upstairs to rummage through Pam’s stuff in the guest room where she kept her things.
The sun was far too bright on that side of the house and I had a hard time seeing. My eyes refused to adjust, even when I clumsily closed all the blinds. My room, located on the north side of the house rather than the south like Pam’s, was much darker. Since the sunlight had derailed my plans to sate my curiosity inside Pam’s room, I rummaged through mine instead.
I didn’t have much in it. Some trinkets I’d bought in Europe, just things to remember some places; my closet held my wedding gown and a few party dresses, plus… my white dress with the red flowers on it. The one Eric loved so much mainly because it had been so different than anyone else’s attire the evening I first wore it to visit Fangtasia. I had worn it many times hence, just for him. He, in turn, had figured out that I enjoyed seeing him in regular clothes – jeans, t-shirt, sneakers.
Most vampires liked to show off their wealth by wearing expensive suits and designer clothes. Not us. My dress had come from a consignment store and had no recognizable name on the label. Eric’s jeans and t-shirts were not designer, just whatever he found that he liked and didn’t smell. Cheap jeans tend to smell of dye. At least our thoughts on what value means were aligned.
I sat on my blond maple bed, just to think. Even though Eric liked to give me gifts, they were simply a show of his affection. He felt that if he was going to be thorough in his show of affection, then he should buy me things as well as tell me that he loved me. I showed him gratitude and then he was happy. What I’d once shunned because it was the mark of a “kept woman,” was just a man wanting to provide for his woman. And as base and unfeminist as that may sound, it is true of a millennium old vampire who used to be a Viking, didn’t rape or pillage, and held his wife and children in high regard. This, I understood.
Eric was old because he was wise, not the other way around. He would ask me questions about me, or about relationships, or my views on things, and then he let my answers be his guide. Not that he didn’t have opinions and convictions of his own – he did, and he made me well aware of them. But I wasn’t as forthcoming as he was, yet he loved me so much that he endeavored in trying to learn… me. In so doing he was indirectly teaching me how he had survived it all: absorbing knowledge through inquiry, taking others’ opinions and thoughts into account and understanding that beliefs are fluid things that can be researched, disputed, and changed to suit the advance of time.
As I stared at my dress, another conviction settled upon my weary mind: I couldn’t leave Eric alone simply because I thought I couldn’t handle his grief. What the hell was I thinking? Obviously I hadn’t been thinking.
Slowly, because my body was spent, I returned to Eric’s side and used him as a pillow. Then I felt like it would be wrong of me to dismiss his grief by seeking his comfort for myself – which was a strange thing to feel in general. So I turned away. This way, if he was angry with me, it wouldn’t seem like I presumed that he wouldn’t be; if he was in need of my comfort, he could seek it easily; and if he only wanted to be left alone, at least he would awaken with plenty of personal space.
At no point did I believe that I would actually fall asleep, but as soon as I closed my eyes I found myself floating within a weightless dream until I got pulled out, ever so gently, by the feel of my husband’s hands on my bare skin.
My eyes fluttered open and I could only catch a passing glimpse of him as he turned my face to the side, his large body molded against mine from behind. His breath at my neck made me tremble. There was no sadness or grief coming through our bond, only desire, lust, and always the undercurrent of love.
His clever fingers reached between my legs, to test whether I was ready or else to make me ready. Slowly he circled my little pearl of pleasure, making it swell, delicately parting my lips to explore me further. I shook as I took a deep breath, the whole room becoming saturated with my scent and his.
Eric pulled my hips into his body, angling me so he could enter me in tandem. As soon as I felt him inside me, I felt his fangs at my neck, urging him with my cries to bite. When my blood sprang to the surface of my skin he moaned because the scent was delicious to him. My fairy-like blood still called to his senses to feast, and I wasn’t sure whether he could hold himself back. I did not care.
He took me slow, sipping my blood rather than gulping, making love rather than fucking, murmuring “I love you” and “you’re so beautiful” in Old Norse, and I let go of my fear that he would be angry at me while I enjoyed this moment.
Gently he pulled away, turned me to lie face up, pinned me with his body and took me again, entering me with care, looking into my eyes as his arms went around my body, pulling me ever closer to him, until I didn’t know where I ended and he began. His mouth moved against mine, not kissing me exactly, but saying the words of love into my being, filling me with his breath and his essence.
I closed my eyes, setting the pleasure of my body aside, and listened.
“You are the only one who can take away the pain,” he said in the language of his youth. “There is no one in this world that can save me like you can. I am forever grateful for the gift of you. May Odin watch over you, my beloved wife, my savior, my life.”
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” I said, feeling tears forming at the corner of my eyes. I kept them shut, unable to look him in the eye, coward that I was. “All I ever wanted was to save you,” for me, I added mentally.
“Make love with me, Sookie. Open your eyes; look at your husband.”
I did as he asked, his expression serious.
“Feel me inside you,” he said as he moved his hips away from mine and back again. “You are inside me too. Feel my pleasure at being yours.”
His gaze held mine as a flood of emotion cascaded through the bond. He wasn’t trying to manipulate my own chaotic feelings; he was trying to make me feel his, to help me let go of my guilt, to help me realize that the choice to save his life had not been mine alone. We were together because he had wanted it that way too. Hadn’t he been the one to tell me to carry the cluviel dor with me? I was supposed to use it in an act of love, and I had. What more was there to understand or make sense of?
I had to let go.
Following the rhythm of our lovemaking, I let go one regret or guilty thought at a time and replaced each with love for my husband.
Piece by piece I reclaimed my sanity. The motion of our bodies allowed me to reach the state of higher consciousness that I needed to see things clearly – so I could then eject from my mind whatever wasn’t working or didn’t belong.
“Feel me, Sookie,” he repeated and moaned when I was finally ready to do as he asked.
My arms finally reached up and held his body against mine. My legs finally wrapped around his thighs to bring all of him inside me. My mouth finally found his, to kiss his breath away, to taste him. And then, finally, I felt him – truly felt him – for the first time ever.
Without the taint of my guilt and regret, I could feel Eric’s side of our bond like never before. This, I realized, was what he’d meant for me to have all this time, and what he actually wanted from me. But I’d been holding back without realizing it. It took this physical and mental near-draining for me to let go of it all so I could feel him completely and let him feel me.
It was glorious!
Our physical climax was mirrored in feelings and emotions so great that they defy description.
Pam found us buried in blankets and pillows, pretzeled together and so blissful that the thought of needing anything didn’t even register. But her weakened state made us take note of our priorities, and we quickly dressed so we could go out and feed and provide for her.
“How did you kill him?” Eric asked while I drove us to Fangtasia. We needed blood and we needed to ascertain the state of affairs in the whole of Louisiana. Real life was, once again, calling.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked him and chanced a glance at his face. He looked determined.
“Yes. I must.”
I paused, but there was no way to sugarcoat my actions. There was no need to do so. “I took him outside and let him meet the sun.”
“Did he scream?”
“A little, until the sun burned his throat.”
“Did you feed from him?”
“Did you otherwise hurt him?”
“No,” other than nearly draining him and killing him, I hadn’t hurt Ocella.
Eric nodded, probably thinking the same thing I just had. “It hurts more than I thought it would,” he confessed.
It was my turn to nod. “I can understand that.” There was a special bond between maker and progeny, plus Ocella had kept Eric for longer than most makers keep their children. However, even though I couldn’t quite relate to that side of his relationship with Ocella, I could understand how the death of an abuser was actually painful for the abused. It wasn’t because we were grieving. It was because we were reliving the horrible moments.
“I was crying for you,” he said out of the blue.
“When I slept and you couldn’t, your guilt and pain made me cry for you. I was grieving, yes, but I was crying because I couldn’t make you stop feeling so much hate for your own self.”
The car lurched violently and stalled, and only Eric’s quick thinking and quicker reflexes stopped us from hitting something, or from somebody hitting us. Only when we were completely stopped by the side of the highway did I realize that he had grabbed the steering wheel and set the emergency brake.
“That’s the last time we have meaningful conversations while you are driving,” he said, his voice hot.
I didn’t know what to say except grumble, “I’m sorry.”
Eric undid his seatbelt and turned my way, asking for my hands. His face was open, his expression one of understanding. I saw love. “You were in so much pain; you were feeling so much guilt; try as I did I couldn’t wake up to tell you to stop, to tell you how much I love you and need you. I know that you didn’t want to cause me the pain of losing my maker, but I don’t blame you for his death. Please, understand that at least.”
Nodding, I felt the first tear roll down my cheek. He got close and licked it away, not wanting to waste any of my blood.
“Good, dear one.” He caressed my cheek before holding my face so that I wouldn’t be able to look away. “Understand this too: you are the first wife I’ve had since being turned into a vampire. You are my progeny. Even though I made those decisions separately from each other, they were still made after much thought about the person whom I could not live without. You are mine in every sense of the word, as I am yours. Thoroughly yours. I trust you with everything that I am. That also means that I understood your wish to dispose of Appius, your need for revenge for what he did to me. I could never be upset at you for getting rid of someone who caused me pain. I would do the same for you.”
Another weight was lifted off me at his words. I nodded in understanding. He’d said exactly what I’d needed to hear and the relief was tremendous. Words failed me as a second tear made its way down my face. Eric licked it then kissed my cheek.
“Let’s go to Fangtasia. Are you okay to drive?” he asked.
“Yes,” I croaked.
“You won’t crash my Corvette?”
“No, I promise.”
“You look sexy driving it,” he said as I turned the car on and put it back into gear. “As a matter of fact,” he caressed the top of my jean-clad thigh, “you look very sexy tonight.”
My smile widened at the compliment. “You look sexy driving the Corvette too, but I don’t think I ever told you.”
“I’m glad you think so. That was the reason I bought it.”
“To look sexy?!” I asked bewildered. What a strange reason to buy a muscle car.
“Of course,” he said, the epitome of the word “smug.”
“I done just inflated your ego, huh?” I smiled.
Eric chuckled deep in his chest. “Two sizes too big.”
Fangtasia was not empty, but it wasn’t open to the public. We thought that might be the case, but I stopped there anyway because I saw Victor Madden’s SUV and one other car that looked terribly familiar.
“Let’s find out what we can from Victor,” Eric said getting out slowly after I parked the car. He was much stronger than he’d been, but not quite fully recovered. That fact kept me ever watchful and protective.
We were greeted at the door by none other than Bill Compton. My whole being bristled when he smiled in a fake welcoming gesture. He even invited us inside as if everything between the three of us was fine honky-dory.
“Victor has been looking forward to meeting you,” he said to both of us as he escorted us into the bar. There was something shining in his eyes like mischief.
The house lights were on inside the bar and they completely bleached out everyone’s skin color except mine. Nothing else seemed out of place inside theestablishment, which could only mean that there had been a cleaning crew busy at work throughout the day to get rid of whatever mayhem Alexei had caused the previous night.
“Northman!” Victor called, emerging from the office corridor. “I am so glad you stopped by!” he exclaimed, and he actually meant it, sort of. He was upset that the bar had been attacked, but as the former owner had just walked in the door, maybe Eric would be able to make it popular again.
“We heard the terrible news,” Eric said and bowed his head at Victor. “Can we be of any assistance?”
“Absolutely!” Victor was truly beside himself that Eric was offering help. He was, once again, looking at me with lust on his mind, but this time not as openly as the night before – not that he remembered. He also thought that Bruno and Corinna had disappeared on their own without a word – something they’d been known to do. Little did he know that both his vampires were still awaiting the pass of my vacuum in my living room.
“I understand,” Victor began, “that you used to be the owner of this bar and sheriff of Area 5.”
“Yes,” Eric asked, dragging the word out pretending not to know where Victor’s line of questioning was going.
“I would like you to take over once more. I could use someone with experience.” Actually, that was a bit of a jab in Bill’s direction. He had put in for the sheriff position, but Victor preferred him away from Eric.
For all of Victor’s faults, he had done his homework. He knew that Bill had abducted me while I was still a human and that he’d been punished accordingly for harming the sheriff’s blood-bonded. More to the point, Victor saw that Bill was an asset because of the database program, but otherwise he was a nuisance. He’d almost offered the sheriff position to Bill because the number he’d had for Eric wasn’t working, but was elated to offer it to Eric instead for more than just the obvious reason. Having Eric and his famous family safe and sound in Louisiana was a boon. It would make him look good as the new regent of Louisiana, and it would provide with another source of income away from New Orleans while he finished rebuilding what Hurricane Katrina had destroyed of Sophie-Anne’s properties.
“And to whom would I report?” Eric asked the perfectly normal question.
Victor smiled widely, but then reminded himself that the news of Sophie-Anne’s passing wasn’t widely known. “I regret that Sophie-Anne is no longer with us.” His mock grief was nearly exuberant. “Felipe de Castro, King of Nevada, has taken over Louisiana and Arkansas in her stead.” His head was shaking in pity for the deceased monarch, meanwhile his inner dialogue was full of pure joy. “I am the new regent for the state of Louisiana,” he finally announced and let his smile shine.
Eric and I bowed quickly and mumbled something in respect for Victor’s new position. He waved his hands, as if bowing wasn’t necessary or called for, but deep inside we had just risen in his esteem for not waiting to show him due deference. Last night he had seen Eric’s family as enemies. Tonight he saw us as allies.
While Eric and Victor hammered out some minor details, Bill approached me, chancing that I was still a young vampire and he could overpower me if need be, but hoping it wouldn’t come to that.
“You look beautiful, Sookie,” he said and openly admired me.
I smiled politely before saying, “thank you,” all the while reading his mind thoroughly.
Bill was contrite, but for the wrong reasons. He knew he had lost me after I’d looked at Eric the night he’d taken me to Fangtasia. If he could turn back time, he would do so and never let me meet Eric. Then, I would have been his alone; he would have been my maker; I would owe him my vampire existence and everything that he knew me capable of.
“You lost your telepathy,” he not so much asked as he stated with conviction. He wanted to see my reaction.
I went with happy. “Yes! Finally, everything is quiet all around.” Bill knew how much I’d hated my curse and would have expected me to be elated at losing the ability.
He didn’t quite believe me, though. “Too bad,” he lamented. “Have you discovered your gift?”
I frowned but then realized what he meant. He wanted to know if I had discovered my vampire power. “No, not yet. I’m hoping I’ll be able to fly.” My smile betrayed me. It was the lunatic one that I’d practiced all my life to hide that I could read minds. Just like a bad habit or a personality quirk, there was not much I could do about it.
Bill’s suspicious mind was working overtime. He knew I was hiding something, and he guessed – correctly – that I could still read minds. He still thought I could turn back time too. Time to dissociate him from both those notions. Quicker than anybody could see or even have time to guess what I was doing, I took hold of Bill’s mind and tweaked his thoughts about yours truly. He no longer held any resentment towards me because he hadn’t truly been interested in me. To him I was whiny and self-absorbed, and when he finally realized that I couldn’t turn back time or tell the future, as he’d once thought, then I was no longer interesting or worth his time. He even felt sorry for Eric because he was stuck with me forever.
Victor gave Eric back control over Area 5 and Fangtasia. Suddenly we found ourselves knee deep in both work and politics.
“I don’t know if I wanted this after all,” Eric grumbled looking through paperwork left by Clancy in the office. Although, the more he perused, the more his expression cleared, until he actually smiled. “Good Clancy. He will be missed.”
“You made him manager of Fangtasia,” I said apropos.
Eric nodded in understanding. “He had a head for business. I hope you can take over, darling. Pam is yet too weak to come and work.”
“I can do it.” After all, I’d managed Merlotte’s alongside Sam – in another life. Fangtasia wouldn’t be much different, and I still had Eric to help if I needed it.
Eric sighed, tired and hungry. “I hereby grant us permission to hunt.”
After everything that had gone so very wrong in our life, the simple task of procuring a few donors felt mundane and banal. I compared it to getting Chinese take-out for dinner, which made Eric laugh, mostly because nobody had ever made the comparison to him, figuring he wouldn’t understand it, maybe.
“So explain to me,” he began as he drove back home after we fed, “what’s the difference between Chinese food and burgers and fries. None of it can possibly be all that good if it’s made that quickly.”
“It’s not particularly healthy, and Chinese food isn’t even from China, not really. But it all tastes good.”
“How can that be?”
I sighed. How to explain it to a Viking? They didn’t even have sugar, not as such. “You know how good honey tastes, super sweet, right?” He nodded thoughtfully, endeavoring to remember, and I continued. “And there was always a cut of meat that you liked better than others.”
He nodded again. “Usually the thick dark meat,” he said with a hint of a question.
“Take-out food is laden with sweets and fats and those two things taste really good.” That’s as much as I could break it down for him.
If somebody had told me, long ago, that I’d be explaining take-out food to a Viking, I would have laughed and laughed.
At home, Pam was happy to see us. She might have been weak, but she still preferred company to solitude, and work to holidays. She fed from me only, turning down Eric’s offer time and time again, citing the fact that he was now a sheriff, again, and needed to be as healthy and strong as possible. However, she was ecstatic that we had gotten Fangtasia back.
“Are you buying it?” she asked.
Eric shrugged. “Everything is in the air right now. Clancy didn’t have any progeny and his will stated that all his goods would go to Louisiana’s monarch. For all intents and purposes, Felipe de Castro is the monarch, but the ceremony hasn’t taken place yet, nor has he officially named Victor Madden as regent.”
“So… what? We just work the bar and make money for someone else?” she asked, nearly outraged.
“Well, we could do it that way.” Eric rolled his eyes. “We do not want for anything, Pam, and we do need to feed. At least at the bar we’ll have our fill of donors.”
She thought about it. “Fine, I guess.”
“Sookie is in charge until you recover fully.”
Pam looked at me and narrowed her eyes. “You better not mess up my accounts.”
Close to dawn, snuggled in bed and feeling mighty tired, I asked Eric about the millefiori bead I’d seen in his jewelry box. His expression took on a far off look as he tried to remember why it was there.
“It’s from my time.” He paused and our bond filled with sadness. I let him succumb to it, knowing it was necessary for him to reminisce. If the longing for days gone by became uncontrollable, I could still comfort him without forcing the bond. “It was part of a necklace that I was going to give my intended as a gift the night that I was turned. During my visit, I became too drunk and forgot to give it to her, then I died. Little by little I’ve lost pieces of it. First the string broke and I lost a few beads. Then I lost a few more through a hole in my pocket, I believe. Ten centuries and that one bead is the only thing left of my past.”
“What about you?”
“Yes, I too am left.”
I sighed as I remembered finding the cluviel dor while cleaning up the attic and my own past. “Do you think my ancestors were Vikings?”
He smiled and kissed the top of my head. “Perhaps. We do look alike, in our coloring at least.”
A new theory wiggled itself into my mind, which just went to show how very delusional I could become when I was dead tired. “Do you think you could be part fairy?”
There was a long pause. “I never thought of it. But wouldn’t my blood smell like yours if that was the case?”
“Not necessarily. Look at my brother. His blood is just like any other human’s blood. We’re both one eighth fairy, but he doesn’t have the essential spark, or whatever made me have my gift.”
“I guess we’ll know if you and I succeed in making a cluviel dor,” Eric said and yawned widely before closing his eyes and drifting off.
I finally had found another piece to my puzzle. There was no way to make the love token alone, not without my love nearby, and he was part of the recipe. Eric was more than just my inspiration. He was essential. The secret to making a cluviel dor was to make it together with your beloved.
Niall had pointed at my hand in Eric’s and said, “You have what it takes.” Always cryptic with his information, dognabbit! Even when he told me that “the vampire loved me,” and I couldn’t figure out which vampire he’d meant way back when (of course, now I knew he’d meant Eric). Could Niall have been pointing at Eric and I together? Could he have meant that both of us had what it took to make the love token?