Bill Compton was interrupted in the middle of a feeding by his guards. They never did that. He heeded his guards’ call because the sudden fear that something had happened to Sookie was more than real. He could feel that she had been hurt almost as soon as his guards knocked on his bedroom door. He dismissed his meal and quickly dressed, joining his entourage on the way down the stairs.
“There was a commotion in the woods. When one of us went to investigate, we found Northman’s child holding a zombie by the neck, and Northman giving his blood to Miss Stackhouse on her porch,” the head of security informed Bill.
With sudden anger a jealous rage, Bill exited his house and immediately found himself on Sookie’s property – which wasn’t exactly hers. Sookie was first to grab his attention: she was crying in Eric’s arms while he rocked her slowly, seemingly trying to comfort her. Bill felt his jealousy spike, but there was nothing to be done for it now. If he harmed Northman, Sookie would never forgive him. He had to bide his time.
Bill looked around and saw Pam still holding the decaying body of Sookie’s friend Tara by the neck. The zombie was grunting but otherwise not doing much. He swallowed the surprise at seeing Tara in such a state and instead gave full rein to his anger.
“Explain,” he ordered all of them. Somebody had raised the dead, and that was not to be tolerated.
“Russell Edgington,” Pam said between gritted teeth, making the corpse rattle within her grip. “He did this, and he attacked Sookie tonight and almost kidnapped her.”
If Bill’s blood could run colder it would have. As it was he started shaking in anger and frustration. He had feared that something like this might happen when the witch had tried to make the vampires meet the sun. Russell must have felt the same impulse, and it was that which had helped him escape the confines of his cement grave.
Eric moved Sookie inside the house, and Bill followed. He questioned the wisdom of having Sookie inside any house owned by a vampire with Russell on the loose. There was no magic to keep him at bay, nothing that could keep Sookie safe, unless they took her to a human’s house. He thought of the last time she’d taken shelter like that in her brother’s house, and that hadn’t turned out so well either. Sookie was hardheaded and stubborn, and if she could break through her own confines, who were they to keep her safe?
Both Bill and Eric heard the sickening sound of a head being torn from a body before Pam joined them inside the house, washing her hands in the kitchen before making her way to the living room. She could hear Sookie muttering some sentimental things about her zombie friend, and Eric’s soft murmurs telling her it would all be okay. For once Pam felt sorry for Sookie. She could understand the grief of losing her best friend, which was now compounded by the violation of the body. As much as Pam disliked Sookie, she could still understand grief. She wondered how Sookie would take it now that Pam had disposed of the zombie.
Inside Pam’s jacket were a lease form and a pen. She retrieved both and set them on the coffee table, making sure to engage Eric’s attention in the process.
“Short of selling the house back to Sookie, which is a lengthy process as you know, you can rent the property to her for now and she will become the human ‘owner,’ so to speak,” Pam said.
“Sookie,” Eric said in a very low voice. He was cradling the girl on his lap. He never looked more in love or in pain for his beloved than at that moment. Pam couldn’t help but feel his pain too. What was it about this girl that had all these men in her thrall?
Sookie looked up and nodded. She’d heard and understood Pam perfectly. She turned within Eric’s embrace and signed the paper. As soon as Eric signed it as well, all three vampires felt the pull of the magic to exit the house.
“Eric, Bill and Pam are invited in my home!” Sookie said quickly, stopping their retreat which had almost made her fall off Eric’s lap and onto the floor. “It works,” she declared, more relieved than happy.
“We still have to do something about Russell,” Pam said turning to Bill. He was still King, after all. He was as much to blame for Russell’s reappearance as Eric was, and he was now in charge of any and all rogue vampires.
Bill nodded, accepting his responsibility. He wasn’t going to make it easy on Eric, though. “I will need your help. I can’t allow Russell to raise an army of zombies.”
“I understand,” Eric said. He wished his maker was still with him. Between the two of them they could take on Russell. Unfortunately he would have to rely on what was left of his fiefdom, and hopefully Bill would call in some help… if he still had help to call upon. “We will need some muscle.”
“I will start making calls,” Bill said, stood, and left. He was happy to have something to occupy his thoughts; something other than Sookie. As soon as he was back in his compound, he called his child. With Russell on the loose, nobody was safe.
Eric helped Sookie upstairs. She was completely healed but tired and grieving. He helped her with no desire to have her, only the desire to comfort her. It was one of those feelings that were new to him, but welcomed. He loved her, and more than proving it to her, he was proving it to himself, surprising himself with the depth of his feelings.
Sookie emerged from the bathroom, showered and smelling of soap and shampoo. He recalled the night he’d surprised her after a shower, and then regretted his past actions. She would have been his sooner, he now understood, if only he had not shown her just how much he wanted her. Now he wanted her because he loved her, so the joke was on him.
“Stay, if you can,” she asked, getting in bed and burrowing into the covers.
“I can. I have to wait for Bill’s instructions. I’ll stay with you as long as I can,” he said. He took off his shoes and his jacket, lying on top of the covers like he’d done the night before.
“What happened to Tara?” Sookie asked. She feared the answer, but at the same time she needed to know.
“Sookie, you know that wasn’t Tara. Tara is gone. That was just a body, not your friend.”
“I know, Eric. I still… I want to know what happened to the body,” she corrected.
“Pam took care of it,” Eric said in a low voice laced with pity. He was feeling very sorry for what Sookie had gone through that night.
“Pam always wanted to kill Tara,” Sookie observed with a rare flash of her usual cleverness. She almost smiled. “If I hadn’t witnessed Debbie killing Tara, I would be really mad at Pam right now.”
“I understand. She’s been less than nice…”
“Tara wasn’t nice to Pam either,” Sookie interrupted. “Tara was difficult, but she had a difficult life. She was a good friend to me, though. Do you really believe that her soul wasn’t inside that body?”
“I’m positive, Sookie. Zombies are nothing but a body. I’ve seen a few before, and it is very scary that Russell knows how to raise the dead. All he has to do is kill a human and make him into a zombie. He chose Tara because he wanted to make you upset. He could just as soon pick somebody else.”
Sookie sighed and caressed one of Eric’s hands. She had missed those hands caressing her body lovingly. She looked up and focused on his blue eyes. There was something there, some deep emotion that she couldn’t read. She figured if she wanted him to open up, she would have to open up herself.
“I meant what I said,” she started. “I love you, that hasn’t changed.”
“So what has changed?” he asked, feeling fear creep into his heart. Maybe her love for him had changed. Maybe she didn’t want him anymore.
“I think you have,” she mumbled, never taking her eyes off him. She wanted him to admit it.
At first he wasn’t sure if he understood. He shook his head, but then considered it and nodded. He stroked her hair softly, knotting his fingers in the damp strands. Her expression was open, waiting and willing to listen to anything and everything he had to say. With love.
“You changed me,” he confessed. “When I thought I might lose you again tonight, I almost lost it. I’m so sorry you were hurt. Can you forgive me?”
“Yes. You didn’t mean to hurt me, Eric. I understand.”
“I love you, Sookie,” he blurted out, the words escaping like they needed to be said.
Sookie shifted, getting as close to him as she could. “Kiss me,” she said, threading her arms around him.
Her words filled him with new purpose. Eric brought her body close, hugging her tight, feeling her warmth through the blankets, and then he sought her lips. They were soft against his, as he realized what kind of kiss this was. It wasn’t like the first kiss they had shared, full of raw emotion. This kiss was full of her love for him. He returned it just as softly, enjoying the feeling that told him they belonged together.
Sookie’s body warmed as she remembered their lovemaking. The kiss intensified, her hands searching for his bare skin. Slowly she tugged at his shirt, finding the soft skin of his back and running her fingers over it. She loved the soft moan that escaped him as soon as she touched him. She loved how his hands went in search of her own skin and found it under the covers. Her breath caught and her heart sped up in response to his fingers on her thigh.
His tongue tasted her, plunging inside her mouth looking for hers. Sookie gave in. It was no use denying herself what she wanted. She tried to reason that if Russell Edgington was looking for her, she might not have long to live. Why waste even a second not giving in to the love she felt for Eric? It was obvious he loved her the right way. Aside from touching her thigh under the covers, he hadn’t made another move and was waiting for her to pick the next action.
Sookie took a deep breath, taking in Eric’s scent as she continued kissing and tasting him. They had kissed for so long while making love, and she still couldn’t get enough.
“Kiss me, Eric,” she said against his lips.
He pulled away a little and looked at her confused. “I am kissing you,” and to prove it he kissed her lips again.
“No. Kiss me everywhere,” Sookie said, pushing the blankets off her with her legs, since her hands were occupied touching Eric’s skin under his shirt.
Without a word Eric moved his kisses to her neck, ignoring his hunger for her blood as he trailed kisses down to her chest. Sookie surprised him by taking off her nightgown, revealing she had been wearing nothing underneath it but a pair of cotton panties. Immediately he descended onto a breast, kissing and licking it, making Sookie writhe and moan. She took off his shirt too, trying to feel more of him. Her skin was getting hotter, and it felt like lightning wherever it touched his. Her honey smell seemed to envelop him as if he was already inside her.
“I want you Eric,” Sookie gasped as she felt his fingers trace the outline of her panties.
“I want you too, Sookie,” he said, half mad with desire. He was breathing harder only to take in her scent.
Eric knelt on the bed, helping Sookie take off the last barrier between him and her sex. As soon as he unbuttoned his dark jeans, his cell phone rang. He bit his tongue to avoid yelling all manner of curses, and quickly glanced at the caller ID. It was Bill.
“It’s Bill, isn’t it?” Sookie said from the top of the bed, disappointment laced into her tone of voice.
“Yes it is. Damn it.” Eric slammed the phone against the mattress before answering. He listened to Bill while idly running his fingers over Sookie’s naked belly… the belly that was supposed to be rubbing against his at that very moment.
“Fine,” Eric said into the phone. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Sookie pouted briefly, but already understood. “You have to go kick some ass, huh?”
“Something like that,” he answered and got closer. He planted a few soft kisses on Sookie’s tanned belly. “I promise to make it up to you.” Eric reached for her panties and nightgown, and helped her dress again, if only to run his hands over her body again.
“I know you’ll make it up to me, but dealing with Russell is more important,” she said, giving him a wan smile. He didn’t want him to feel bad about doing his job; besides, it was for her own safety.
“I’ll come back tonight and spend the day downstairs. I’ll try to come see you, if that’s okay.” Eric tucked her back under the covers, wishing it could be only them for one peaceful night.
“It would set my mind at ease to know everything went well, so go ahead and wake me up as soon as you get back.” Sookie caressed his face lovingly, saying a silent prayer asking for Eric to indeed come back to her.
Eric departed after planting one last kiss on her lips. Bill said he had a plan. It had better be a good one.