Entitlement Chapter 005

[Author’s Note: Some of this will seem very familiar because we’re dealing with the same characters but different time line. My version of the Eric/Sookie mythos is pretty well set – the difference is when it happens and how. That’s why things in this story match things in Making Pam, She’s Coming Home, Late, etc.
Also, someone mentioned that Sookie would show more resistance. This Sookie never slept with Bill, so there’s no conflicting loyalty there. A lot of Sookie’s denial and resistance toward Eric had to do with not wanting to change her “one man” status, and not hurting Bill’s feelings. This Sookie had a chance to be romanced by Eric without a predisposition to Bill, so she’s much more open him. Also, this Eric “recognized” Sookie eariier, because he got close to her before he had a clear picture of her as an individual.]

Part 5 Once More, With Feeling

Sookie sneaked into the house at 2 AM with her sweater tied around her waist to hide a pinkish wet spot on the back of her dress. She was relieved she made it into the bathroom without being seen, and she put her dress in cold water to soak. Even if the stain on the back came out, the bloodstain on the breast might not. She threw on a robe she had hanging on the back of the door, then went into her room and locked the door behind her.

Eric was already at the window when she got there, giving her that wicked grin that made her weak in the knees. She pulled the screen down as quickly and quietly as she could so he could come in and before she knew it she was on her back and the robe thrown open, Eric between her legs licking, a breast in each hand. She was beginning to think she would never cool down again. Every time she had sex with Eric, it seemed to make her want more. She wondered what would happen if he didn’t have to go to rest every day – if it were up to her, they’d be doing this 24 hours a day.

She was trying with everything in her to be quiet. She thought before she met Eric that she knew what an orgasm was, but she was wrong – every time they went at it now they got stronger and more unbelievable. She asked Eric earlier if that was normal for most women and he said no – that she was a “sexual savant” whatever that meant. She kept repeating the phrase to herself so she could write it in her diary and then look it up tomorrow. He assured her it was a good thing, but she still wanted to know exactly what it meant.

In no time at all Sookie had to bury her face in her pillow and try not to scream as he pushed her to yet another climax. She didn’t even know it was possible to have 6 in one night and they weren’t done yet. She was glad she was in her own bed this time, because her legs wouldn’t support her if she tried to stand right now. As she lay there catching her breath, Eric continued to kiss her all over and finally told her to put her arms around his neck. As she did, he held her thighs in his hands and picked her up, taking her over to the wooden chair and sitting down. Sookie thought she remembered seeing something like this in a movie but she couldn’t remember when or where – all she knew was that he was lowering her onto his erect cock and if she died right now, she’d go a happy, happy girl. He was moving her up and down and she buried her face in his neck until he said, “look at me, Sookie.”

She leaned back, looking him in the eye and he said, “I love you, Sookie. Will you drink from me?”

“Yes,” she said in a hoarse whisper and he tore his wrist and she drank as much as she possibly could before the wound closed. When she was done, he pulled her tight against him and bit her shoulder hard, drinking quickly as he began to come. He held her so tight as he reached his release that she couldn’t breathe for a minute, but soon she was riding the wave of another orgasm that left her so weak she’d have been on the floor if Eric hadn’t been holding her. She collapsed against him, and he said, “I do love you, Sookie, more than anything. Remember that, no matter what happens.”

“I will. I love you, too,” she whispered into his ear. She was covered with sweat and not recovering as quickly this time around.

“I am exhausting you. I should leave and let you sleep.” He picked her up and carried her to the bed.

“I don’t want you to go!”

“You’ll be asleep in a few minutes. I’ll hold you until you drift away, and then tonight you will come to my house, yes? I’ll leave a note for the housekeeper – her name is Margaret – and you get there any time after 6:00 PM, alright?”

“Alright, I will. I need directions…”

“They’re right here,” he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and laid it on the nightstand. “It’s easy to find, it’s all the way at the end of the street. I’ll have Margaret leave the garage door open so you can park next to me, OK?”

“OK,” she said in the middle of a yawn.

“What are you going to do today, Sookie?”

She was obviously half asleep now. “I’m going to talk to Gran, and I have to see if I can find somebody to fix our lawn mower. Even my brother couldn’t get it started yesterday.” She barely finished the sentence before she was completely out. Eric straightened his clothing, left a bottle of Chanel No. 5 sitting on top of the directions, and flew out the window, pushing it down from the outside. Eric flew quickly over the trees to where he had parked his car.

When he approached the car, he saw Bill Compton leaning on it.

“Good evening, Bill,” he said as he touched ground.

“I take it you’ve been to Sookie’s tonight?”

“Come now, Bill, you don’t have to ask. You can smell her on me. Delicious, isn’t it? That delicate sweetness with that special something that makes you want to sink into it and drown.”

“Well, I don’t know that I’d describe it that way…”

“Maybe that’s because you’ve only tasted her blood. There are even sweeter treats to be had, if one is so privileged.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“She doesn’t seem to think so. She certainly enjoys my taste as much as I do hers.”

“She didn’t…”

“She did. Just one more, and she’s mine forever.”

“You can’t do that, Eric…”

“Oh, but I can, and I shall. Don’t worry, Bill, I’ve already explained it to her. She knows the possibility and I don’t think she’ll hesitate for the third taste when I offer it.”

“She’s an innocent girl…”

“She’s not quite as innocent as she used to be, but I know what you mean. I assure you, Bill, I have only the most honorable intentions toward Miss Stackhouse. I’m not joking when I say I care for her. We make a marvelous couple. I’ll be very proud to have her by my side at the next get-together.”

“You aren’t planning to take her to Rhodes in September?”

“But I am. I’ll be the envy of everyone there. There isn’t a vampire walking that wouldn’t give almost anything to taste her, but only I can do so. I’m going to enjoy that very much indeed.”

“There are people above you in the hierarchy who might have different ideas.”

“Not if she’s my bonded. Even the Council wouldn’t interfere with that connection. And if you’re thinking of trying to stop me, Compton, know this – I’ll stake anyone who tries to interfere with our relationship.” Eric stood over Bill, his voice menacing and deep, “There are larger forces at work here than you can possibly imagine. She’s meant for me, and I shall have her. Now get off my car, and don’t let me smell you this close to her house again.”

Bill stepped away angrily and Eric got in his car. Eric meant exactly what he said – he’d kill anyone who tried to get between him and Sookie – and Bill knew it. Her Majesty was just going to have to deal with Eric if she wanted Sookie’s assistance. Bill knew she’d be angry at him, but he reminded himself as he walked back to his house that it was better to anger Sophie Ann than Eric. Eric was being unreasonable, even by his standards. Bill reasoned that there must be something driving Eric that went beyond wanting to control her abilities, but he couldn’t imagine what it might be.

For all Eric’s boasting, it wasn’t like him to stick his neck out this way for any reason. His usual M.O. was to stay off the radar until someone needed torturing or beheading. He was putting himself squarely in the spotlight for this girl and it made no sense at all. It couldn’t be politics, because the smart move would be to serve her up to Sophie Ann on a golden platter. Eric didn’t need more money, he didn’t want more power – at the moment, he seemed to want Sookie more than he wanted to live. If anyone had told him Eric would behave this way about a girl, Bill would have thought them mad. It couldn’t possibly be love, but to an outsider, that’s about the only thing that would explain his attachment to Sookie.

Eric found it hard to concentrate on the drive home because Sookie’s scent was so overwhelming. He wasn’t going to shower tonight so he could wake up to that intoxicating scent tomorrow night. He’d be very happy, indeed, to have that beautiful aura around him for the rest of his long life. He had known millions of women, but he was sure that hers was the softest skin he’d ever touched, and the warmest, too.

He was very relieved at the lake when she didn’t notice that he’d almost called her the wrong name. He would have simply said he was excited, like when she called out “oh my god,” but he would naturally use a deity from his own culture. He wasn’t ready for her to know about that relationship yet. He needed to know her much better before he could trust her with that part of his past. The funny thing was he was very sure it wouldn’t be long before she knew and she would understand. It was stupid to trust someone so young he’d known for only a few days, but it was She, and he was sure of it.

Eric got home in time to conduct a little business tonight. He handled some email and paid a few bills electronically, and left some instructions for his day man that he wanted carried out first thing in the morning. By the time he went down to the new cache he had built for himself under the basement, he had a message from Sookie on his voicemail.

“Hey, Sweetie. I just wanted to tell you I’ll be thinking of you all day and I’ll see you first thing when you get up tonight. I love you.”

Eric played the message 7 times before he let go and let himself rest for the day.

There was a knock on the door at the Stackhouse residence at 8:45 in the morning, just as Gran was putting the biscuits in the oven.

She went to answer the door, wiping her hands on her blue floral apron, and was surprised to see a gentleman in a suit standing there.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m looking for Sookie or Adele Stackhouse. Do I have the right address?”

“Yes, I’m Adele Stackhouse.”

“Can you sign right here, please, ma’am, and we’ll get it unloaded for you right away.”

She signed where he told her, but was confused. “What exactly are you unloading?”

“Your new lawn mower.” He motioned to two workmen at the back of a delivery van and they backed a gorgeous green riding lawn mower off the truck.

“This must be a mistake. We didn’t order a lawn mower.”

“I was told to deliver it here. It was paid for by a Mr. Northman, so there’s no bill. It’s the best money can buy – it’ll practically run itself. Enjoy it, ma’am!” The man turned and walked away, and the deliverymen loaded back into the truck and left right behind him. Adele was just standing there looking at this beautiful John Deere riding mower. Sookie’s new man had apparently bought them a lawn mower.

Adele sat down on the porch for a few minutes thinking about this. On one hand, she and Sookie both told Eric not to buy her expensive presents. On the other hand, they really needed a new mower, and this one was so fancy even Adele could run it. Eric was apparently a rich man, and she guessed Sookie had made an innocent remark and he took it upon himself to do this, because she knew Sookie would never ask for this. Propriety said they should give it back to him. Practicality said to accept it and be grateful. She decided the best thing to do would be to talk to Sookie about it. If Sookie was OK with it, then they would keep it, but if she felt it created any obligation toward Eric because of it, they wouldn’t. Adele was pretty sure no pressure was needed to sway Sookie toward Eric. She knew her granddaughter and she knew without a doubt that Sookie was already in love with him. If she hadn’t slept with him yet, it was only a matter of time, but she had a feeling the deed had been done.

She got up and went back in to the bottom of the stairs. “Sookie, honey? Can you come down here, please?”

“Sure, Gran, be right down!” Sookie shook the sleep out of her head and realized she was naked again. That made her feel absolutely wicked and she loved it. She grabbed a pair of shorts and a t-shirt out of her top drawer and hurried down the steps to see what Gran needed. “Mornin’, Gran!” Sookie kissed her on the cheek.

“Honey, did you mention anything about our lawn mower to Mr. Northman?”

“Yeah, I guess I did, last night. He asked me what I was going to do today and I told him I had to find somebody to fix it because even Jason couldn’t get it started the other day…”

“Look in the front yard.”

Sookie looked at Gran strangely and went to the front door. “He didn’t!”

“Apparently, he did.”

“I told him this wasn’t necessary!”

“Did he offer it last night?”

“No, not at all. He didn’t say a word.”

“How would you feel about keeping it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, would it make you feel obligated to do anything you wouldn’t want to do if we accepted it?”

“No, not at all, but I don’t want him throwing money at me….”

“This is not money, Sookie, this is something we really need and can’t afford.”

“Is something burning?”

“My biscuits!” Gran rushed into the kitchen. The biscuits weren’t burnt yet, but they were getting there. She put them on top of the stove and told Sookie to sit down while she got sausage and orange juice from the fridge.

“Gran, are you really thinking we should keep it?” Sookie couldn’t believe it.

“Well, Sookie, if you’re in a relationship with a wealthy man who takes pleasure in making your life easier, it might be wise to accept his help. It’s not a diamond bracelet or something frivolous. It’s a genuine need.” She sat a glass of juice in front of Sookie.

“OK, Gran, I have to tell you something before we decide what to do.”

“What is that, Sookie?” Adele braced herself, knowing very well what was coming, not looking up from the sausage she was putting in the frying pan.

“Eric invited me to his house tonight through Tuesday morning and I told him I’d go. I’ve never been asked to visit a man in his home before, you know, and normally I wouldn’t consider it, but Eric is different.”

“Different in what way, Sweetheart?”

“I love him and he loves me.”

“Well, Sookie, you know I don’t want to interfere with your life. You’re a grown woman and this was going to happen sooner or later. I do want to ask you if you think it’s too early in your relationship for this?”

“No, I don’t. With someone else, it might be, but not with Eric. I can’t even explain it, Gran, but he’s the one…”

“Alright, honey. Is there any chance you’d leave his address and phone number so I’ll know where you are?”

“Yes, he told me to do that. He was hoping you wouldn’t be angry about this.”

“You’re going there tonight?”

“Yes, I was going to leave about 5:30.”

“Will you feel obligated to do anything you wouldn’t do otherwise because of the lawn mower?”

“No, not at all. I mean, of course, I don’t want to take advantage of him, but, if you think about it, this was a really thoughtful thing to do. I wasn’t hinting around or anything. He asked me what I was doing today and I was half-asleep when I said it. It never occurred to me he’d do something like this.”

“Yes, it was very thoughtful. He saw that you needed something and he met that need. That’s what a partner should do.”

“So, you’re OK with all this?”

“I’m worried for you, Sookie, but this is your decision. You’re a sensible girl and you’ve never been this way about anyone before. I’m going to have faith that you’ll act with good sense and good taste.”

“Thanks, Gran. It really means a lot to me.”

“Alright, then, let’s have breakfast and then you can try out your new mower.”

“OK, sounds like a plan!” ‘Wow,’ Sookie thought, ‘that went much better than I expected it to!’ It was funny, but it occurred to her that everything around Eric came really easy. Being around Bill, she nearly got killed how many times? But the minute she met Eric, it was like everything was falling into place for them. As a matter of fact, if not for Eric, she’d be dead right now. He was there for her when she needed him most. It made absolutely no sense, but she knew he always would be.

The mower turned out to have a full tank of gas and it started right up the first try. It handled really easily and Sookie was able to finish the yard in just about 30 minutes. Sookie was making room to park it in the tool shed when Jason drove up. He hopped out of his truck and walked toward the mower and was up to it, whistling, before Sookie saw him coming.

“Hey, Sook – that’s a beauty. Where’d it come from?”

“It was sort of a gift.”

“Who the hell do you know that can give presents like that?”

“I have a friend who is very well off and he heard me mention that we couldn’t start our mower anymore and he had this delivered this morning.”

“That wouldn’t be this new vampire I’ve been hearing about would it?”

“Yes, his name is Eric Northman and we’re seeing each other.”

“Have you fucked him yet?”

“That is none of your business, Jason Stackhouse!”

“You’re my sister – I got a right to know if my own sister is a fang banger or not.”

“You’ve got no such thing. Who did you fuck last night, Jason – did you even know her name?”

“Sookie, you and Jason come in the house and stop that fighting.” Gran wasn’t going to have this. She knew Jason wasn’t going to be happy about the situation, but he was going to have to accept it. Whether he did or not, she wasn’t going to have them standing in the yard cursing at each other. She raised them better than that.

The two of them turned toward the house but neither was happy about it. Sookie was furious that Jason had spoken to her that way and Jason was not happy at all with what he’d heard about Sookie’s new man. Sam Merlotte had bent his ear pretty good the night before and Jason came to the house spoiling for a fight. He didn’t want people talking about his sister that way, but he was going to make sure she wasn’t a slut before he beat anybody down for saying it.

“What is the matter with the two of you? Get in this house!” Gran was having none of it.

They walked into the kitchen and Jason exploded. “Is she whoring around with some big rich vampire or not?”

“Jason Stackhouse, don’t you ever let me hear you speak to your sister that way, do you understand me?”

“Gran, you shoulda heard what they were saying about her at Merlotte’s last night.”

“Who was saying that?” Sookie demanded

“Arlene, mostly, but then Sam told me about this guy. He’s got a reputation, Sookie. They say other vampires are afraid of him!”

“He’s what they call a Sheriff, Jason, he has authority over them.”

“Uh-huh. Why’s he buying you expensive presents?”

“It’s not a diamond bracelet, Jason, it’s a lawn mower. You know better than anybody how bad we need one!”

“What did you have to do to get it?”

“I didn’t do anything, Jason. All I did was mention I needed to find somebody to work on ours today and Eric just sent this one over. He’s rich, Jason, he just does things like that.”

“What does he expect in return?”

“Nothing, Jason. He loves me and he wants to take care of me. I’ve told him he doesn’t need to throw money at me, but he knew we needed this and he knew I’d never ask him for it.”

“Damn straight you’d never ask some big vampire for a fancy gift like that. What’s got into you, Sookie?”

“Jason, my relationship with Eric is none of your business, you understand me?”

“Jason, you owe Sookie an apology for speaking to her that way and for even thinking such things about your own sister. You know she’s a good girl!”

“She used to be, but I don’t even know her anymore. Every time I turn around I hear about her running around with a new vampire.”

“Oh, big deal, Jason, I’ve got some new friends. You take a new floozy home every night and we never say anything to you about it!”

“It’s different, Sookie, I’m a man. I don’t want people thinking my sister is a slut!”

“Look, Jason, I love Eric and he loves me. DEAL WITH IT!”

Jason was really mad now. “You know, Sookie, I’m the man of this family and if you ever speak to me that way again, I’m gonna turn you over my knee, goddamit!”

“JASON!” Gran had reached her limit. “Your sister is an adult and she has as much right to make her own decisions as you do. Don’t you ever let me hear you threaten to lay hands on her or you won’t be welcome in this house again, is that clear?”

Jason backed down but he wasn’t happy about it.

“Alright, now, Jason, are you here for breakfast?” Gran asked

“No, I came by to find out what the hell Sookie has been up to.”

“That is none of your business,” Sookie shot back with all the sass she could muster.

“Jason, Sookie has a new boyfriend, I’ve met him, and he was very polite. He’s a responsible businessman and he’s been very kind to her. Now I’m not going to have anymore of this fighting between you two. Family comes first, you understand me? If someone talks bad about your sister, you don’t run home and accuse her, you stand up to them and tell them she’s a good person and you’re sure they’re wrong. You’re supposed to protect her from others, she isn’t supposed to need protection from you.”

“Yeah, you better hope I don’t tell Eric you threatened me. He doesn’t think much of you to begin with.”

“What’s he got against me?”

“Eric is very traditional. He thinks it’s your job to support me and Gran. By his way of thinking, you aren’t doing your job as a man. You’ve known for how long we needed a new mower? I know you couldn’t afford a fancy one like Eric bought us, but you could have done something to help. You ought to be ashamed that he had to be the one to do it.”

“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”

“Jason Stackhouse, you watch your language.” Gran wasn’t going to have that in her house. “And, frankly, he has a point. You only want to be the man of this family when it suits you. I wouldn’t have wanted Sookie to ask Mr. Northman for his help, but I’m glad he thought enough of her to give her something she really needed. That mower is going to make our lives a lot easier. I can run it myself if I need to!”

“Yeah, I did the whole yard in half an hour and it was easy as pie. It’s a really wonderful gift.”

“Are you sleeping with him or not?”

“Jason Stackhouse, your sisters private life is just that – private. She doesn’t ask you to account for your relationships, now does she?”

“But Gran…”

“Jason, Sookie is 25 years old. She was bound to fall in love at some point and here we are. At least he came to the house and talked with me, and he couldn’t have been nicer. He brought me beautiful flowers, and a nice box of candy for Sookie…”

“Speaking of which, where is that?”

“It’s in the refrigerator, honey.”

“Oh, cool,” Sookie went straight to the fridge.

“So that’s it? I’m supposed to be happy about my sister runnin’ around with a vampire?”

“You don’t have to be happy about it, but you do need to have enough respect for her to let her make her own decisions.”

“If he tries anything, I’ll beat the hell out of him,”

“He’d break you in half, Jason.” Sookie said as she tore into the box of expensive chocolates. “He’s about 6 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier and he’s got arms like tree trunks, plus he’s old and vamps get stronger the older they get. He’d swat you like a fly,” Sookie bragged.

“‘S’at true, Gran?”

“He’s a very large man, yes, and apparently quite old and powerful.”

“You should see his car, Jason,” Sookie teased him, “He’s got a screamin’ red corvette convertible with all the extras.”

“You never been one to care about what kind of car a man drives, Sook,” Jason was still not happy about the situation.

“I’d love him with or without the car, but you gotta admit, it’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, I guess it would be.”

“You’ll see it sometime, I’m sure. He’s going to be around, Jason. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Why is Sam Merlotte so upset about all this?”

“Sam has had a crush on me since forever. He’s jealous, and so is Arlene. She was the one talking about how good looking Eric is the other day.”

“I never did think Sam Merlotte had a proper attitude toward you, Sookie,” Gran said with distaste.

“You’re worried about Sam, but not this big vampire?” Jason couldn’t believe it.

“Jason, I told you, he came to the house like a proper gentleman. He’s very handsome and charming and even that night he said if Sookie or I needed anything he’d be happy to do anything he could for us. We told him it wasn’t necessary, so he knew Sookie was not going to ask him for help, and he knew we needed a mower. He did exactly what a good boyfriend would do, as far as I’m concerned, he took care of her when she needed it. He promised me she’d be safe when she’s with him and I do believe he’ll look out for her. That’s all I could ask of any man she’d become involved with.”

“Want a piece of candy, anybody?” Sookie held the box out. “These are from that fancy store in Shreveport – they’re hand made.”

“Who brings a girl candy, anyway?” Jason said as he took a piece after Gran picked one out.

“Vamps are old fashioned, Jason. The older ones do very romantic, gentlemanly things. It’s like dating a guy from an old movie.”

“So you like this guy because he acts like a sap?”

“No, I like this guy because he talks to me and asks questions about me and he knows things like I like stuffed animals and dark chocolate and I need a lawn mower because he actually listens to what I say. No man of any kind ever did that before. He’s not afraid of my disability, he thinks I’m beautiful and special and he wants to be with me.”

Jason stopped and thought about that for a minute. Everybody thought Sookie was pretty, but everybody he knew was freaked out by her ability. The only guy that didn’t seem to be put off by it was Sam, and he just lived in a trailer in back of the bar. He wasn’t going to be buying Sookie candy and lawn mowers and he didn’t seem the type to hang on her every word, no matter how much he liked her. If he wasn’t a vampire, Jason might be happy for Sookie finding somebody.

“You sure it’s safe for you to be around him, Sookie?”

“Yes, I’m sure he would never let any harm come to me.”

“Alright, I guess, it’s your life. If anybody asks I’ll tell them he treats you like a lady and they ought to be happy for you that you’re happy.”

“Thank you, Jason.”

“Hey, Gran, any chance I could get something to eat? I ain’t had anything yet today except a beer.”

“Of course you can. You want breakfast or lunch? It’s almost twelve.”

“Lunch, I guess.”

“I could eat a little, too, Gran, before I get into the shower.” Neither Sookie nor Gran had any intention of telling Jason where Sookie was going this evening. The longer he had to get used to the idea of Sookie dating, the better.

“Hamburgers or fried chicken?”

“Chicken.” Jason and Sookie said in unison, making Gran laugh.

“Alright, I’ll get started on that. While I’m getting lunch you two go out and finish making room in the shed for that mower. We don’t want to leave it sitting out. We want to take good care of it so it will last a long time. Sookie, don’t let me forget to write Mr. Northman a Thank You note.”

“Yes, ma’am”

“OK, let’s do it.” Jason knew it was too much work for Sookie to rearrange the shed by herself and Gran was right, he wasn’t as helpful to either one of them as a good brother or grandson should be. By the time the new mower was neatly tucked into its new home in the shed, Gran was putting fried chicken and mashed potatoes on the table.

“Smells great in here!” Sookie was really hungry, in spite of having had breakfast.

“Yeah, thanks for cookin’, Gran.”

“Well, I like to see that you two are eating well. I know you live on beer and pizza half the time, Jason.”

“I can’t cook much except eggs and baloney sandwiches,” Jason laughed.

“I’ll bet you never even have lettuce for the sandwich, do you Jason?” Sookie teased him.

“No, there’s not much green of any kind in my fridge unless I forget to clean it out,” he joked.

The mood had lightened considerably and by the time Jason was fed and on his way, it was time for Sookie to start deciding what she needed to take with her and what to wear. She didn’t have any proper luggage, so she got the biggest tote bag she had out of the closet and figured that would be enough for just two days. She knew she wanted to take the little pink gown because Eric had said it was ‘scintillating,’ which she only knew from her Word of the Day calendar, and she’d be there for two nights, so she took two dresses, three pairs of panties, the gown and a little shorts set to wear during the day Monday while Eric was asleep.

She took a book to read and some sample sizes of shampoo and conditioner she bought to try and had never used. At the last minute, she threw in a pink bikini and a beach towel in case Eric had a back yard. She knew Gran would tell her to take a sweater, so she put the one she sneaked into the house with on top of the tote bag and everything just barely fit.

She took a long bath, looked at a magazine and tried to picture what Eric’s house would be like. She took extra time with her hair and makeup today, then she put all the makeup she’d need in her handbag, which didn’t come close to matching her clothes or the tote bag, but she figured no one would notice. She was jumping out of her skin, scared and excited to see where Eric lived and what it would be like. She made sure her toenails and fingernails were perfect and wrote in her diary about how she was feeling about it all. It was risky, but she decided to take it with her so she could write in it during the day while Eric was asleep.

When she went to get the directions to his house, she noticed the new bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. She wanted to be mad but she actually thought it was pretty sweet that he’d buy her a really nice perfume and just leave it like that, so she figured the least she could do was wear it for him. She put some on her wrists, ankles, behind her knees and her ears, loving the feminine floral scent. It was the first bottle of “real” perfume Sookie ever owned.

She put on a simple blue sundress and when she had killed all the time she possibly could she decided to go and stop at the store on the way to get some Pop Tarts and yogurt because she figured Eric wouldn’t have food at his house. She kissed Gran goodbye and tried to pretend she didn’t know Gran was fighting back tears, then she stopped into the IGA. She not only got her favorite blueberry yogurt and scored some unfrosted strawberry Pop Tarts, which are nearly impossible to find, she got some little plastic packets with the stuff to make a tuna salad snack and a couple of granny smith apples. Worse comes to worse, she thought maybe Eric would order a pizza for her or something like that. She was pretty sure he’d do anything like that she requested, since he was good about looking after her.

By the time she was done in the store it was still only ten after five, but she headed for Shreveport, anyway. She managed not to get too nervous until she turned down the lane to Eric’s house. She couldn’t believe this neighborhood! The houses were far apart and they were huge! She knew to go to the last house on the street and she couldn’t believe what she was looking at. It was a white, 4-story Victorian with an attached double garage. There was a freaking fountain with a Goddess or something standing in it in front of the front window, and the house was surrounded by rose bushes and beautiful trees. This had to be the place because the garage door was open and there was Eric’s car with an empty space between it and the door into the house.

Sookie took a deep breath and pulled into the garage and was sitting in her car trying to decide what to do when the door from the house opened and a nice, gray-haired lady in a maid’s uniform came out and waved at her. Sookie remembered her name was Margaret, so she got out of the car and said hello.

“Miss Stackhouse! I’m so pleased you’re here. Did you have any trouble finding the place?”

“Oh, no, it was real easy once I got off the highway. You’re Margaret, I guess?”

“Yes, Miss. Do you want me to get the gardener’s men to help you with your luggage?”

“Oh, no, thank you, I only have a couple of things,” Sookie said as she reached into the back seat. Margaret insisted on taking her tote bag and the groceries and led her into the kitchen, which looked brand new.

“This is gorgeous!” Sookie said before she realized what she was saying.

“Yes, Mr. Northman is making some improvements to the property. There’s actually construction going on but he insisted that the house be presentable for you and then they’ll continue their work during the week after you gone.”

“Oh, I don’t want to be in the way!”

“Not at all, Miss. Have you eaten dinner yet? I’ve got a nice salad prepared and some potatoes baked and I’m ready to throw a steak on the grill for you in no time.”

“Oh, well, yeah, if it’s no trouble…”

“None at all. I’ll set your bag in the living room and it won’t take 10 minutes to have your dinner ready for you.”

“Thank you.” Sookie couldn’t believe this place. Eric had a maid and gardeners? She looked around the kitchen and could tell a couple of spots where the stickers on the appliances had just been removed and she could smell fresh paint, though the place had obviously been aired out.

Margaret came bustling back in with a big smile, “how do you like your steak, Miss?”

“Oh, uh, medium-rare, I guess.”

“That’s fine. Did you want to freshen up first? I can show you to the bedroom or there’s a bathroom just off the den there.”

“Through here?”

“Yes, Miss, through that door and go all the way to the back toward the TV, then it’s to the left.”

“Thanks!”

Sookie went through the room and noticed that the carpet looked brand new and the furniture looked as if no one had ever sat on it. There was an incredible home theatre set-up and the couch was one of the biggest she had ever seen and looked kind of plush and soft in a dark brown shade. She found the bathroom and used it then washed her hands and checked her make-up. As she came out, she noticed a tag still on the cabinet to the right of the door and looked inside where there were hundreds of movies still in their wrappers.

She could smell her steak cooking so she went back into the kitchen and sat at the big metal table that sat along one side.

“I’m sorry you have to use the kitchen tonight, Miss, but they’re still working in the dining room. It will be one of the last ones finished, I’m afraid.” Margaret sat a big salad in front of Sookie with a couple of bottles of dressing.

“Oh, this is fine. I don’t want to be any trouble.” Sookie said as she poured some blue cheese dressing on her salad and dug in.

“Oh, no, Miss, that’s what we’re here for. We’re all here to make you more comfortable, so you relax and don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything you want or need.”

“Are there other maids?”

“Yes, I have a couple of helpers who might be in and out, stocking the pantry and such. One of the girls was assigned to work in the bedroom today, which is very unusual. Normally only the upstairs maid does that, but Mr. Northman didn’t want to wait until Monday as he normally does. We’ll be changing her schedule so she works on Fridays now, so you’ll have a fresh room for your visits. Mr. Northman said that you normally have Mondays off, so we’ll adjust to your schedule.”

“Oh, but I don’t want to put anyone out. I can work around you all.”

“Nonsense, dear, we’re here for your convenience!” The older lady said as she brought Sookie a gorgeous plate with a big rib eye steak and a baked potato and she sat little dishes of sour cream, butter, and a bottle of steak sauce in front of her.

“Wow, this looks fantastic!”

“Good, I hope you enjoy it. If the steak isn’t to your liking just let me know and I’ll cook it more or if it’s too done I’ll throw another one on.”

“Oh, no, I’m sure it’s fine!” Sookie cut into it and it was perfect. “Actually, it’s perfect and it’s really tender.”

“I’m glad – we just engaged that butcher so I was hoping the quality would be satisfactory.”

“So how long has the construction been going on?”

“They started Thursday, actually. They started in the den so there’d be a comfy place to watch TV, and they’re nearly, but not quite, done in the living room. Then they’ll finish the dining room and move to the second floor. I believe there’s going to be a mini-kitchen on the second floor for you that will just have snacks and breakfast items.”

“For me?”

“Oh, yes, Miss, so you don’t need to come all the way down here to get a snack in the middle of the night.”

“All the way? Where is the bedroom?”

“Mr. Northman’s personal rooms are on the third floor.”

“Is there anything on the fourth floor?”

“Yes, a very large gym where he keeps his swords, and there’s a sauna and a massage and meditation room, plus a guest room. Honestly, I think the gym has gotten most use of any of the rooms. Mr. Northman takes his swords very seriously, you know. I’m pretty sure he mostly uses the bedroom to hang his clothes and bathe. Of course, he uses the upstairs office quite a bit, too.”

“Is there a downstairs office?”

“Yes, he uses that for meetings with his accountants, lawyers, brokers. You’ll see it on your way upstairs. His library is in there, if you’d ever like to find something to read.”

“Oh, OK…”

“What time do you normally get up, Miss? Would you like me to come for breakfast or would you prefer to sleep in?”

“Uh, sleep in, I think. I can always just have a pop tart in the morning.”

“Those plain strawberry ones are your favorite?”

“Yeah or plain blueberry, too. I don’t like the ones with frosting – they don’t have enough fruit in them.”

“Alright, we’ll make sure we have those stocked for you. Is there anything else you particularly like? We can make sure your favorite toiletries are stocked as well. Just leave me a list of what you’d like in the bathroom and it will be here for you the next time you visit. Feel free to call me any time if you need anything at all. Would you prefer to have lunch at noon, 1 or 2 tomorrow?”

“1 o’clock, I guess.”

“Alright, and dinner at 6:00?

“Yeah, that’s great.”

“Do you like seafood? I make a mean Shrimp Étouffée.”

“Oh, I love that!”

“Alright, we’ll plan that for tomorrow night.”

“Good evening, ladies!”

“Eric!” Sookie jumped up and ran to hug him and kiss him. “I’m so glad to see you!”

“I am glad to see you, too, my lover. Don’t let me interrupt your dinner, though, eat while it is warm.” He motioned for her to sit back down and sat next to her at the head of the table. “Are you ladies getting to know each other?”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Northman, we were just talking about some of her likes and dislikes so we can make her as comfortable as possible. You might want to make a list of foods that you like and don’t like and then that list of toiletries we discussed, Miss, and we’ll make sure it’s all to your liking.”

“I really don’t want to be any trouble…”

“Making you comfortable is their job, Sookie. The more information they have about you, the easier it is for them to do a good job.”

“Oh…. OK…”

“What kind of progress did they make today, Margaret?”

“The den is finished and looks very nice, and the living room is nearly done, so we cleaned it up as well as could be. Frannie should be finishing the third floor now and I called Mrs. Chin and explained about the change of schedule so she’ll be doing the third and fourth floors on Fridays now.”

“Excellent. How is your dinner, Sookie?”

“Wonderful! I couldn’t get a meal like this in a restaurant!”

“Good, good. Did you have a good day today?”

“Oh, I totally forgot! The mower! Thank you so much! We’re so grateful, Eric, I don’t know what to say. It’s going to make our lives so much easier!”

“Did they pick a good one? I told them the approximate size of the yard and said to get the best quality and the easiest to use.”

“They did! They bought a John Deere riding mower, which is like the best one made. It only took me half an hour to do the whole yard and it works so easy, even Gran could use it if she wanted to!”

“She was not upset about it, I hope?”

“No, we talked about it and she said that it’s what a good boyfriend would do – you saw that I really needed something, and you knew I would never ask for it, so you got it for me. If you had spent money on jewelry or something like that, she wouldn’t have been happy about it, but we really, really needed a mower. Ours was pretty much dead. If Jason can’t get something running, it’s done for.”

“Good. I’m glad that I could help. It makes me feel very good to be able to do that for you. I meant what I said, Sookie, I want to help. I’ll do anything I can to make your life easier.”

“That’s really sweet, Eric. I don’t want to take advantage, but in this case, you really came through for us. Jason pitched a little fit on me but Gran chewed him out and we both told him he ought to be ashamed that he didn’t do something about it sooner so he dropped it.”

“Yes, if your brother will not step up for you, I certainly will. Was he very angry?”

“He accused me of some things, like I was afraid of, because Arlene and Sam were running their mouths, but Gran told him it was my business and he was in no position to criticize me. He threatened to spank me, but Gran told him if he ever threatened me again, he wouldn’t be welcome back into the house.” Sookie finished her dinner and Margaret took the plate away. “Thanks so much, Margaret.”

“Not at all, Miss. Would you like a piece of German chocolate cake?”

“YEAH – I mean, if it’s not trouble…” Sookie was embarrassed that she answered so quickly at first.

“What would you like to drink with it? Coffee, milk, soda pop?”

“Milk, please?”

“Coming right up.”

“Cool,” She gave Eric one of her little girl grins and said “that’s like my favorite kind of cake!”

Eric was beaming at Sookie. He was so pleased to do anything at all to make her smile. Margaret was beaming a bit, too, so happy to see Mr. Northman with such a sweet young lady after all these years. He was an exceptionally good boss and she always wished he’d meet a nice girl.

Eric enjoyed watching Sookie eat the cake more than she enjoyed eating it, and that was a lot. When she was done, Margaret said good night to them, started the dishwasher and went home for the night, as did her helpers. Eric took Sookie into the living room and they looked around.

“What do you think, Sookie? Do you like the color of the walls or should we change it?”

“I really like that rose color – it goes great with this furniture.”

“Come into my office and let me show you the plans.” He led her into the downstairs office and showed her three beautiful watercolors of the room in different colors. “What do you think? Which do you like best?”

“They’re all pretty. I like the pink one best, but it’s your living room, don’t you want a more masculine look?”

“No, I want it to suit you. I want people to come in and know that Sookie has been here.”

“Well, then, the pink one is definitely me,” she laughed. “I couldn’t design one I like better than that.”

“Alright, and this is the plan for the dining room – see how it coordinates with the living room?”

“That’s gorgeous!”

“Good, I’m glad you like it.”

“Yeah, what’s not to like? Is this the library Margaret was telling me about?”

“Yes – most people think this is my home office, but I only use it for meetings with accountants and such. My real office is upstairs. I’ll show it to you when we go up. When you are here tomorrow, feel free to look around and help yourself to anything you like.

“Thanks! I have to tell you, Eric, I’m amazed at this place! I never pictured you in a house like this!”

“Is it better or worse than you pictured?” He put the drawings back into a portfolio.

“Better, and I like it a lot more than I expected to. I thought it would be very masculine, with a big bearskin rug and big wooden furniture.”

“No, to me, the house is for the woman. It’s about her comfort. A man can live in next to nothing, but you don’t take a woman into that. You create a place for her to be the woman you know she can be.”

“Wow – you’ve thought about this a lot.”

“I am a thousand years old, my lover – I have thought about everything a lot. I have lived many places in many different conditions. I know what has value and what endures.” He came around the desk and leaned back on it, taking her hand and pulling her toward him. He pulled her hands around to circle his waist, then took her face in both of his hands. “This is what matters.” He kissed her long and hard, then softer and deeper as she slid her hands into the back pockets of his jeans.

“Sometimes, you seem too good to be real…” Sookie sighed.

“I have other qualities that are equally undesirable. I want you to see all the good before you have to deal with the bad.”

“Oh, I see the good, believe me. I’m blown away by all of this.”

“Good. Now, did they take your luggage up for you?”

“My handbag and tote bag are in the living room.”

“Would you like to go in the den and watch TV or would you like to go up now. There’s TV up there as well, but all the DVDs are down here.”

“Let’s go up. I’m dying to see your bedroom.”

“And I am anxious for you to see it. Let’s get your bags.”

Eric carried her tote bag and the bag of groceries, and led her to the stairway and up. He pointed out the second floor, and showed her where the mini-kitchen would be for her convenience. They proceeded to the third floor, and he led her into his bedroom. Sookie was amazed. It was almost – normal!

The headboard was big, made of wood, carved with intricate detail. The bed was a California king, easily the biggest bed Sookie had ever seen. There were nightstands on each side, a side table with 2 chairs and a dresser, all of oak.

“Is it alright?” He asked, nervous that she hadn’t said anything.

“It’s wonderful. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is so…”

“Restful, I hope. I like to have a peaceful place to relax and reflect. The bed is very comfortable, and there’s a TV in that chest there. I spend a lot of time relaxing in here, watching TV or reading. I call it my cocoon because I sometimes stay in here for a few days at a time.”

“Do you sleep in here?”

“Now and then, if there are no servants expected in the day time. Most of the time I rest in a secret place no one but Pam knows about. I’ll show it to you later, or tomorrow night.” He walked across the room to the table and sat Sookie’s groceries on it, then he placed her tote bag in one of the chairs.

“I haven’t known you long enough to know what toiletries you like, so Margaret bought some makeup and other things women use and stocked your nightstand there, and the bathroom. She’ll buy whatever you want, so do let her know what you like. Please, look around and see what’s here.”

“OK,” Sookie went into the bathroom and saw the biggest bathtub she’d ever seen in her life. “Wow! You bathe in that?”

“Yes, it’s very comfortable. If you’d like to take a soak we can do that any time.”

Sookie looked in the medicine cabinet – La Mer cleansers and moisturizers, Chanel makeup, Pantene in the shower, Olay soap, a Venus razor. Sookie was amazed.

“There are some things in the nightstand, too.”

Sookie checked it out and there were things any girl might want – a manicure kit, more Chanel makeup, Carmex lip balm, a blank journal, a steno pad, some pens, tampons and other necessaries in the bottom drawer.

“Eric, you told me you’ve never had a girl here before…”

“I haven’t.”

“Where did all this stuff come from?”

“Margaret put it together for you. If she made any wrong choices, just tell me and we’ll get what you’d prefer.”

“You honestly did all this for me?”

“Yes, I did. Are you…” he was stopped from speaking when she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him as hard as she could.

“I can’t believe anyone would think I’m worth all of this, but I’m so grateful that you do that I can’t even tell you!” She kissed him again, and again, while her hands were unbuttoning his red silk shirt. Eric unzipped the back of her dress and slipped it off her shoulders, pulling it down over her hips and taking her panties with it and she stepped out of them and her shoes as they hit the floor. She was trying frantically to unbutton his jeans as he threw the bedcovers back and put her on her back in the middle. He kicked off his jeans and crawled over her, giving a predatory growl that she felt in her center as she opened up to him.

He stroked her and probed her and was pleased to find that she was very wet and apparently ready so he took her quickly, making her cry out, not in pain but in relief. The phrase ‘this is real – this is being alive’ kept running through Sookie’s head as she cried out with every thrust. She felt expansively, finally free and she was loud about it. Eric was delighted with the sounds she was making. There was no faking here – Sookie was just letting it all out for the first time, ever, and it was beautiful. SHE was beautiful. If Eric were not already in love with her, he certainly was now.

For the first time he could remember, he wasn’t just having sex or even making love – he was making music. She was an instrument he was playing and he wanted to coax every sweet sound in her out to fill the night air. He thought to himself that he wasn’t kidding about Sookie being a sexual savant. This girl was born for this, for now, for here, for him. She wasn’t having sex – she WAS sex and he caught himself twice almost calling her Freyja. He reached something more like an explosion than a release and he was talking very fast in a language Sookie couldn’t understand, but she took it as a good sign.

“Min Vackra Gudinna, Jag älskar dig! Ah, Ah Ahhhhh” his voice rose up in a howl and Sookie was coming so hard she actually strained the muscles in her legs. Eric collapsed beside her, both of them staring at the ceiling, It was at least 5 minutes before either could speak.

“Wow – why do people ever do anything else?” Sookie finally said, and Eric cracked up.

“You are a miracle, Sookie,” he laughed loudly.

“Are you making fun of me?

He rolled toward her, “no, my lover, I am in awe of you. I cannot believe that a woman as sensual and lusty as you made it to 25 without having sex.”

“Oh, yeah…” she said, then added wickedly, “maybe I saved it all up to unleash it on you!”

“I could not have said it better myself. Come here,” he pulled her close and began to nip at her shoulders and neck.

“Eric?”

“Yes, my beautiful lover?”

“Teach me everything.”

Eric laughed loudly again.

“You’re laughing at me?”

“No, my lover, I am not. I am delighted with you. What do you want me to teach you?”

“Everything, you know… I want to be the best you ever had. Teach me how.”

“That is a promise, my lover.”

“I’m serious, Eric, tell me what to do next.”

He nuzzled her ear, “suck my cock.”

Sookie had no idea how to do that well, so she just moved down and started. Eric couldn’t stop himself from moaning – it felt too good. He actually wondered if she hadn’t done this before, it came to her so naturally, but he was sure this had to be her first time. She held him firmly and tried everything she could think of with her tongue and her teeth. Eric was gently stroking her chin to encourage her, and had his other hand in her hair, but was resisting the urge to push her down because he didn’t want to scare her. Sookie alternated between wondering if she was doing it right and wondering at how much she liked doing this. She knew men liked it a lot but it never occurred to her that women might like doing it. Until now, it seemed like a strange thing to do, but at the moment if felt like the most natural thing in the world. She knew enough from reading to brace herself when he finished and to swallow it down quickly. Eric was speaking that language again.

Sookie moved up and stroked Eric’s hair as he enjoyed the afterglow, and asked, “was that alright?”

“That was much better than alright, Sookie. Have you done that before?”

“No – why?”

“You do it very well, my lover,” he stroked her cheek. “Very well, indeed.”

“Is that Swedish you speak when you … you know?”

“When I come? Yes, that’s Swedish.”

“What do you say?”

“I said the same thing every time – my beautiful Goddess, I love you.”

“Honest?”

“Honest.”

“When was the last time you said that to somebody…”

A drop of blood ran from Eric’s eye, down toward his ear as he looked at the ceiling.

“Are you OK?” Sookie was afraid she said the wrong thing.

He looked at her as she sat next to him with those big trusting eyes. “Sookie, do you love me?”

“Yes, Eric, you know that.”

“If I promise to answer that question completely some other time, would you be willing to wait?”

“Yeah, I guess… did I say something wrong?”

“No, you didn’t, I just don’t think you’re ready to hear the answer. I’m asking you, if you love me, to wait until I am ready to tell you about it.”

“OK, sure.”

He held his arm open to her and she snuggled into his side as he pulled her close to him. “You have goose bumps, Sookie, you’re cold. Let’s get under the covers for a bit and talk.

“We’re going to have more sex, though, promise?” she was hopeful as she crawled under the covers with him, and snuggled back up.

“Oh, yes, we’re going to have lots more sex. We have many hours before dawn. I’m going to keep you up all night and then you can sleep late tomorrow.”

“Good, I want to make the most of our time here.”

“So do I, even though I hope you’ll come back next Sunday, too.”

“Sure, Eric, I’d love that. Will I see you during the week, though?”

“I’ll try to make sure we don’t go two days without seeing each other. Most nights during the week, I’ll come tapping at your window, then we’ll have our days off together every week. Wednesday and Saturday nights I’m most likely to be busy, so keep that in mind.”

“Am I allowed to ask what you do then?”

“Yes, those nights I have to be available to do Sheriff’s duties so I need to be at Fangtasia for a good part of the night. You’re always welcome to come there, if you want, though I certainly understand if you don’t want to.”

“Would I be in the way?”

“No, but you might be bored.”

“At Fangtasia? You’re kidding!”

“No, you’d mostly be sitting up front with me. Of course, as an added incentive, I can sneak down to the basement with you and show you what’s down there.”

“What is down there?”

“A big round bed,” he wiggled his eyebrows at her and she giggled.

“I guess that’s where the real action takes place, right?”

“Oh, yes, my dear, and a good deal of that education you just requested will take place down there.” He nuzzled her neck and squeezed her breast and she purred at him.

“So that’s where I learn the kinky stuff?” she giggled.

Eric laughed as he stroked her shoulder and arm “in a manner of speaking. We’ll go slowly, a little at a time, and you never have to do anything you don’t want to.”

“But I want to do everything.” She was absolutely serious.

He laughed, “we are still going to go slowly. I don’t want to overwhelm you and scare you. We have plenty of time to explore all there is to explore.”

“We do?”

“Hopefully, yes.”

“I’ll get old, though.”

“That depends. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t?”

“No, if we were blood bonded you could stay as young and beautiful as you are now for 50 or 60 years.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, not at all. And, of course, you always have the option of coming over.”

“You mean becoming a vampire?”

“Yes. That would be your choice, of course, and you’d have a long time to think about it.”

“Wow – I never even considered the possibility of that.”

“It’s something to think about, some day. For now, we still have plenty of time.”

“How does a blood bond keep you young so long?”

“Well, bonded couples usually exchange blood regularly and that keeps the human in perfect form for a long time. Your skin would be perfect, for example, and your hair would stay bright and beautiful, your flesh would stay firm. There are many advantages.”

“And I could feel what you feel?”

“Yes, and find me if you needed to, just as I can find you now if I need to.”

“I could?”

“Oh, yes – you would know when I was coming closer, you would be able to come straight to me in an emergency. You would feel wonderful when you were in my presence, and I in yours.”

“I already do, though,” she said in all seriousness.

“Not like this. You’ve never felt anything so good as being with your bonded. It is an indescribable joy.”

“It’s not as good as an orgasm, though, right?”

“In a different way, yes, it is.”

“Wow.”

“Yes, it’s very special.”

“So why don’t vampires bond with humans all the time?”

“Because your love for the other can be a double-edged sword. You feel more wonderful than anything else in the world can feel, but if you lose your bonded, it feels just that bad. Many bonded who survive their partner do not live long after. Some pine and waste away, some take their own lives. You have to love the other person enough to make it worth risking that kind of suffering.”

“Like when you were bonded – you said you’d never regret it and you’re glad you can’t forget her?”

“Yes. I was wild with grief for decades after, though, and only a miracle kept me from taking my own life…”

“A miracle? Is that just an expression or do you mean that literally.”

“I’m talking about literal Divine intervention.”

“What happened?”

“Remember earlier when I asked you to wait until I was ready?”

“Yes… oh. You do promise to tell me at some point, though, right?”

“At some point, Sookie, I promise you, I will tell you everything about it.”

“When you trust me more?”

“No, it’s not about trust. It’s about preparedness. You must see more of my world before I can even begin to explain it.”

“There’s a lot more in the world, isn’t there? I mean, more than vampires?”

“Yes, there is.”

“I thought so. I’ve seen other things that I thought weren’t human, but I didn’t know what they could possibly be. I think some of them think differently, too.”

“Differently? You mean when you hear them telepathically?”

“Yeah, certain people don’t really think in sound, they think in pictures. Their thoughts are very different. Like my boss, Sam. He’s one of them. I get these flashing images instead of words.”

“Your boss is a Supe.”

“What’s a Supe?”

“A Supernatural being. That’s how we refer to ourselves to distinguish us from humans.”

“Sam is a Supe?”

“Yes, he is. That might be why his thoughts seem different to you.”

“What is he?”

“He’s a Shifter.”

“What’s that?”

“He can shape shift into at least one other animal, maybe more.”

“Like a werewolf?”

“Weres are their own category – there are many of them. You probably know some and don’t realize it.”

“Weres – so they’re real?”

“Yes, and there are other Were animals – some are panthers, tigers, bears, many things. They are called whatever they become – were-panthers, were-bears, etc.”

“Have you ever seen one change?”

“Oh, yes, in war they often change and fight. Weres are particularly strong and vicious, and they’re very big when they are transformed.”

“Will I ever get to see anything like that?”

“Probably. Vampire royalty often uses Weres to provide security for their retinue during the daytime.”

“And I’ll see vampire royalty?”

“Yes, if we are still together, and you are prepared, I’m going to take you to a large convention of vampires where there will be many royals and Supe elders.”

“Really!”

“Oh, yes, I plan to show you all of the world.”

“When is it?”

“The convention? September.”

“Wow! That’s going to be so cool!”

“I hope you think so at the time. There can be intrigue and fights at such gatherings, so you should be prepared for that.”

“You said if I was prepared. What would I have to do?”

“We would have to be bonded. Otherwise, it would be too dangerous to take you around so many powerful vampires.”

“Why’s that?”

“They might try to force you to bond to them so they could use your ability for their own purposes. You are in danger of that, even now.”

“So they might try to control me?”

“Yes – you could become a virtual slave if you were not under my protection.”

“So if we were bonded, I’d be safe?”

“Safer, at least. If we are bonded, they could only take you from me if they killed me.”

“Oh, no!”

“I have stayed alive a thousand years, Sookie. No one will be able to kill me. We will be very careful. Plus, if we go, I’ll work out a deal so that you are under my Queen’s protection as well.”

“What kind of deal?”

“She will probably pay you a lot of money to use your telepathy for her. If you are in her employ, you will have her protection, even more so than you’d have if you attended just as my guest.”

“She would actually pay me?”

“Oh, yes, and very well. You could make more in one weekend than you make in an entire year at Merlotte’s, especially if you allow me to negotiate for you. I know better than anyone what your value to the Queen would be, and what she would be willing to pay. Your gift has great value – I will make sure that you are properly compensated and protected for its use.”

“I’m just curious – what if they didn’t know about my ability?”

“That’s just it, Sookie. I don’t know how, but I’m sure Sophie Ann already knows about you. I believe that is why Compton came back to Bon Temps.”

“You mean he was looking for me?”

“I believe so, yes. I think she sent him here to persuade you to work for her, or to create a bond with Bill so you could not refuse.”

“He wouldn’t have tricked me into a bond, would he?”

“You said you tasted him twice and he never warned you.”

“No, he didn’t. You think that was the plan? That’s awful!”

“Yes, it is, and it could have been horrible for you. That’s why I am so anxious to protect you, Sookie. Now that you are known to the power structure, you are in danger until you are protected.”

“And being bonded with you would protect me?”

“Yes, it would protect you from almost everyone. Only the most powerful vampires would even consider interfering with a bonded couple. Our laws forbid it, because it is such an important connection.”

“Some of them still might be willing to break the law, though, right?”

“It is possible, but not as likely. Unless you are bonded, any vampire could target you, and many of them could be very cruel.”

“I won’t do anything I don’t want to do, though.”

“You might not have a choice. You could be compelled to do what they wanted, either through a forced bond or through torture or coercion. Vampires are not like people, Sookie, they can be even more cruel and calculating, as can Supes of other kinds. Their motivations are very different from a human’s.”

“So if Sophie Ann already knows about me, there’s no turning back?”

“No, my lover, I’m afraid the only question now is for whom you will work and under what circumstance. As my bonded, I can offer you more protection than anyone else could.”

“If I’m bonded to you, Sophie Ann can’t make me bond to her?”

“Not while I am alive.”

“But that puts you in danger – why would you do that?”

“Because I love you and I want to keep you safe.”

Sookie moved closer to Eric and wrapped her arm tightly over him as he cuddled her close. Eric knew she was processing what he had told her, and she needed to feel safe in his arms. The safest he could make her would be if they were both bonded and married, but he knew it was too soon to push for that.

‘One step at a time,’ he told himself. ‘Once we have the bond, then I push for the marriage. It’s for her own good. Now that she is known, this is the best way to protect her.’ He didn’t let himself think about the fact that he wanted to marry her whether she needed protection or not. He would do anything he could to keep her, now that he finally found her.

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