Entitlement Chapter 008

[Remember, everything falls into place once Eric and Sookie find each other and sometimes it’s obvious that there’s something bigger going on because things don’t go the way you might expect.]

 

Part 8 Zero to Sixty

 

 

Sam showed Eric into his office and then closed the door behind them.
“What can I do for you, Eric?”
Eric smirked at him, knowing he was using his first name to try and diminish the power differential between them, but obviously it wouldn’t work with him – Eric was more than secure in his superiority to this lowly Shifter.

“Let me be clear, Merlotte. I would prefer that Sookie not work here, but for the moment she chooses to do so. While she is here, I expect her to be safe. By safe, I mean that no one is to touch her – NO ONE – do you understand?”
“I keep a close eye on my girls. I would have stepped in if she hadn’t been able to handle those morons…”
Eric spoke quietly and seriously. “That is not acceptable,” he snarled. “He touched her in an extremely familiar manner. I will not have my bonded subjected to the attentions of any random red neck that takes a notion to play grab-ass with a hard working waitress.”
Sam felt faint. They were bonded. He was in hell.
“She’s your bonded?” He tried not to show any emotion, but failed.
“Yes, she is. You understand the ramifications, do you not?”

“Yeah, I do – nobody touches her, ever, for any reason unless it’s life or death.”

“Exactly. Do you wish for her to continue to work here?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

“Then I hold you responsible for her protection while she is in your employ. There will be no more incidents of this sort or you can count on a much less agreeable visit from me.” Eric turned and left the office without another word.

Sookie was frozen to the spot where Eric had left her, not knowing what to do. Eric came out of the office scowling, but smiled when he saw her and walked confidently back to her.

“Do not worry, Dear One, you still have a job,” he told her softly as he stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers then adjusted the little ruby pendant hanging around her neck. He smiled softly at her and flooded the bond with love and comfort so she relaxed a little.
“What did you say to Sam?” She was still a little worried, though just being close to Eric made everything feel better.
“Just that while you choose to work here, I expect him to see to your safety. That’s not unreasonable, now, is it?” He gently straightened the little ruby teardrops dangling from her delicate earlobes.

“Well… no….” she was blinking, trying to process that. Could that really be all he said?

“All I did was apprise him of our status and emphasize that I needed to know that you would be safe here. He understood completely, I assure you.”

“OK – can you stay a while?” She brightened immediately as she felt happiness and love flow from him.
“I’ll have a True Blood while I’m here, if it will please you.”
“Yeah, of course. See that booth there?” She pointed to the first booth by the front door, which was empty. “That’s my station. You like Type O positive, right?”
“Yes, Sweetheart, that’s fine. I’ll sit down and you bring it when it is convenient. Don’t neglect your other patrons on my account. I’m in no hurry.”

“OK, I will and I won’t.” Sookie knew she sounded like an idiot but it was hard to think with Eric being right here in front of everybody and feeling all those feelings swirling around her. She felt like she just got off a carnival ride as she bounced back to the cooler for his drink, her feet barely touching the floor.

Eric smiled, suppressing a little laughter as he strutted across the room to the empty booth. He was just getting seated when a familiar face entered the bar.

“Bill Compton!” Eric said with a wicked edge to his voice.
Bill froze, feeling like a mouse staring directly into the eyes of a hungry cat. He turned, knowing there was nowhere else to go. “Eric – what a surprise!”
Eric motioned to the other side of the booth and Bill, resigned, sat across from him. Eric nodded to Sookie who looked at them from the kitchen window and nodded that she understood to bring Bill a blood, too.
“Fancy meeting you here, Bill.”

“I do live in the area, Eric, where else would you like me to go to socialize?”

Eric smirked and snorted, leaning back with a satisfied air, his arm across the back of the booth. “Go anywhere you like, Bill. Naturally, I can count on you to keep an eye on my bonded when you decide to hang out with your new neighbors, yes?”

“Your….” Bill couldn’t bring himself to say it. Surely he hadn’t talked her into it already? He had visions of Sophie Ann driving a stake through his heart and laughing about it. The dread of that was only surpassed by the idea of Eric’s sword separating his head from his shoulders. “Eric, you didn’t… I mean, you wouldn’t force that innocent girl…?”
“Rest assured, my young friend, that there was no force involved – merely two lovers swept away on a wave of passion. It was a perfect moment.”

“Ever the romantic…” Bill sneered.

“Forever and ever,” Eric laughed.

Sookie came over with their bloods then, giggling. “Hey, Bill! Eric, it’s so funny – I’ve never felt anybody so satisfied with themselves! What are you all talking about?”

“Dreams,” Eric told her simply, taking her hand and kissing it. Bill thought to himself how easily Eric lied.
“Do vampires dream?” She was bouncy and happy and gushing all over Eric as he held her hand. Bill felt sick.
“Occasionally. I was just telling Bill about one of mine that came true.”
“Oh, cool – I’ve had some of those!” Eric and Bill exchanged a look, both being fairly sure that Sookie had undiscovered talents that would emerge in time.
“Hey, Sookie?” Jason called from his table.

“Oh – be right back!” She beamed at Eric then spun around and went to see what Jason wanted.

Eric watched her skip away, and Bill was shocked for a minute – Eric was looking at her with something more like affection than ownership. Was it possible Eric actually had feelings for Sookie?

“Eric?” Bill thought he interrupted Eric’s reverie, wondering if such a thing might actually be possible.

“Yes?”

“Are you just here to check up on Sookie or were you looking for me?”

“I was in the neighborhood and I felt Sookie panic. It turned out to be over nothing, but then as I arrived she was molested by some young idiot, so I dealt with it. I had a word with Merlotte and then she wanted me to stay so here I am. I’ll be leaving for Fangtasia in a few minutes and then I’ll see her later tonight.” Eric seemed to be talking to himself, planning his evening more than conversing with Bill.

Sookie got another pitcher of beer for Jason’s table and dropped an order for a basket of wings for Hoyt. She was walking on air when she got back to the table with the pitcher, and Jason couldn’t stand it.

“So your new guy thinks he’s somethin’ doesn’t he, Sook? Kinda full of himself, dontcha think?”

“He IS something, Jason – he’s rich and gorgeous and powerful. You’re full of yourself and you don’t have anything but a nice smile and a good line of bullshit.”

Jason’s jaw hit the floor as Catfish cracked up and Hoyt covered his mouth with a napkin trying not to laugh. Eric and Bill smiled at each other briefly at hearing Sookie stand up to him.

“Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” Jason raised his voice a bit and Sookie’s eyes darted to Eric’s table, where he was now glaring at Jason.
“Jason, cool it. We agreed not to fight, remember? Relax and I’ll buy you shot of tequila.”
Jason hesitated, but then he figured ‘what the hell?’ Sookie’s new guy was twice his size, anyway. Jason sure as hell didn’t want to fight him and he could see in her face that Sookie thought it was a possibility. “Yeah, alright, whatever.”

“Son of a bitch,” Eric said with disgust.

“Yes, I heard how he spoke to her, too. Are you going to allow that?” Bill challenged him.

“No, but I’ll address it privately. I don’t want to upset Sookie or embarrass her any more than necessary. Rest assured, that will be the last time he speaks sharply to his sister.”

“Good luck with that. My experience with him is that he’s a bigot, he’s stupid and from what she says he’s constantly in trouble.”

“That’s his problem, but his problems will no longer be Sookie’s. Even a dullard like Stackhouse can be taught manners.” Eric didn’t take his eyes off Sookie as she buzzed about the room serving her tables.

“Just don’t kill him – Sookie would be hurt if he were permanently damaged,” Bill warned him.

“I’m sure you are right. She’s a very caring person. I can’t believe he’s going to let her spend her hard-earned money buying him alcohol!”

“He apparently feels no guilt at all. He likes to be the center of attention – I’m surprised he hasn’t challenged you yet if he knows who you are.”

“He tried, but backed down when I asked why he was sitting there allowing his sister to be mauled.”
“He was here when it happened?”

“Oh, yes. Believe me, if Sookie were not present, I’d have already taken him outside. Rest assured, I will address the issue and it won’t be repeated.”

 

“I’m amazed that you’re going to allow Sookie to continue working here at all.”
“One step at a time. I told her I’d prefer she not work and I also offered her a great deal more money to work at Fangtasia. I’m going to allow time for those seeds to take root.”

“And if they don’t?”

“As I said, one step at a time. As our bond matures, she’ll want to be with me more and more. I’ve no doubt that her days as a bar maid are numbered.”

“Yes, I’m sure you are right.” Bill said almost to himself. This was a done deal. The only way for Bill to get in with Sookie now would be to kill Eric and from what he knew of Eric’s strength, an army couldn’t take him down. Sophie Ann occasionally tried to intimidate Eric by threatening him with her guards, but Eric just laughed at her. Bill had never seen Eric show fear, even – no, especially – in battle.

Sophie Ann told Bill more than once that if Eric ever decided to be King, no one would dare oppose him. She was both in awe of Eric and afraid of him, and she flirted with him shamelessly when he was in her presence. As much as Sophie Ann loved Andre, Bill believed she’d stake him in a minute if she could get Eric into her bed. She bedded Bill regularly, but he knew he’d never be a serious contender for royal consort. Eric could have the throne and everything that came with it – he just hadn’t shown any interest. Eric was as cocky as he was for a reason. He knew that he was easily the first choice of nearly any vampiress – or vampire for that matter – as far as partners or protectors went. The ones that didn’t lust after him feared him. The smart ones did both.

Eric finished his blood as Sookie came back to the booth.

“Can I get you anything else?” She said hopefully.

“No, Dear One, I’m afraid I must be going. I will see you later tonight though, yes?” He smiled softly at her as he stood up.
“Yes, of course!”

“Good. You have a good night,” he pulled out his wallet, “and I’ll count the minutes until we are together again,” he threw a hundred on the table. Sookie started to object, but he stopped her with a kiss. “I don’t have change,” he said with a wink.

“Eric!” She whined a little, but he kissed her forehead and left without another word.

“Ah!” She couldn’t believe he did that, but then again, she could. “Can I get you anything else, Bill?”

“I’ll take another blood, but I’m going to move to the bar if you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all,” she noticed Bill was pulling out his wallet. “Oh, that’s OK, we can start a tab for you…”

“I should pay you separately…”

“Don’t be silly – Eric just gave me enough to pay for both drinks several times over. I don’t know how I’m going to get him to stop doing that!”

“Why would you stop him?” Bill asked as the two of them walked toward the bar

“I don’t want him throwing money at me.”

“Sookie, did you bond with Eric?” Bill asked as he slid onto a stool across from the soda fountain.
“Yeah – he told you?” Sookie was washing some glasses under the bar so she could talk to Bill for a minute.
“Yes, he did. Didn’t he explain what that means?”
“You mean about supporting me and all that?”
“Yes – you are entitled to the finest support Eric can afford.”
“When we get married, I’ll let him spend a little money on me, but for right now, he’s overly generous as it is.”

“You don’t understand – did he explain how you working makes him look?”

“No. What do you mean?”

“It makes him look cheap. I’m surprised he didn’t insist that you quit your job.”

“That’s crazy! I mean, he told me I didn’t need to work, and he said if I insisted I’d make more at Fangtasia, but he didn’t say that my working here was bad. He just said I wasn’t being paid enough.”

“You aren’t, but that’s the least of it. I’m sure he doesn’t like you wearing that uniform, either.”

“Yeah, he said it doesn’t do me justice.”

“It doesn’t cover you properly, either.”

“Did he say that?”

“He doesn’t have to. No vampire would want his bonded showing so much of her lower… limbs.”

“It’s a vamp thing?”

“Yes, it is.”
“I guess I have a lot to learn, huh? Ooh – I’ll be back!” Sookie ran off to tend to one of her tables where they were ready to pay their bill.

Bill was wondering why he was telling Sookie these things. Why did he care if Sookie made Eric look bad? Eric was probably counting on the fact that the only vampire that came into Merlotte’s was Bill. Still, other Supes came into the bar. Once word got around that Eric had bonded, people might come looking for her. Bill was surprised to learn that he cared, not just because of his feelings for Sookie, but because it was sort of a point of pride for vampires. The way one vampire treated his bonded reflected on all of them. He didn’t doubt Eric’s desire to support Sookie, so Bill began to think that it might be a good idea to help Sookie understand what it meant. That might help get him on Eric’s good side, too, and that was no small thing. If Bill could get Eric to see him as an ally instead of a rival, Bill was much more likely to keep his head.

“You alright, Bill? You seem really intense about something,” Sookie asked playfully as she came back for a pitcher of beer.

“I was just thinking. Sookie, you do understand that a bond is forever, don’t you?”

“Yes, it’s amazing. It’s even better than I ever imagined. I’m still kind of dizzy from the rush of feelings and the fact that I can always feel where Eric is if I think about it for a minute, but I never felt so loved in my whole life!”

“You don’t get any negative emotions from Eric? Greed, deviousness, anger…?”

“I got anger when that guy grabbed me and when Jason yelled at me just now, but mostly I just feel love and concern and comfort. I can feel him sort of checking in with me every few minutes, too. It’s like I’m never far from his mind.”

“Really? You feel nothing that scares you?”

Sookie was wiping down the bar so she could keep talking. “No, not at all. I never felt safer in my life. I know if anything goes wrong, Eric will be right there as quick as he can.”

“Do you know anything about how he lives?”

“Yeah, I just spent two days at his house – it’s really nice.”

“It is?”

“Yeah – are you worried about me, Bill?”

“Hey, Sookie, fill these up for me,” Arlene dropped off two empty pitchers as she went into the kitchen.
“Yes, Sookie, I am,” Bill continued.
Sookie brought the pitchers over to the tap. “You don’t really know Eric, Bill. I know he’s had to do some horrible things and I know he’ll have to again, but he’s not at all like that when he’s with me. You’ve never been to his house, have you?”

“No, honestly, I can’t even imagine what Eric’s nest would be like.”

“It’s a gorgeous big house full of servants that are really loyal to him.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, it’s really nice, and he’s making it nicer just for me. I think maybe I see a side of Eric that no one else does. You know him as your sheriff, but you don’t really know him socially. Here you go, Arlene,” Sookie slid the pitchers to the end of the bar as Arlene came back through.

“Well, that’s true, I suppose. I know him through political channels. In that context, Sookie, he is very, very dangerous. I can’t even imagine him being as you describe him.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want you to? Maybe he wants to keep that part of his life private, so the political stuff doesn’t invade his home life?”

“I must admit, that never occurred to me. Maybe that’s why…” Bill suddenly realized what he was about to say.
“Why what?”
“Why Eric is not King.” Bill figured there was no harm in saying it – she was his now.
“There’s already a Queen, though, right?”
“Yes, but if he wanted to, Eric could easily seize power.”

“Then I guess he doesn’t want to. He likes his home to be restful.”

“Restful? Eric?”

“Yeah. You know I’m the only woman who has ever been there with him? His maid confirmed that. She always wished he’d meet a nice girl.”

“What you are telling me is 180 degrees from the ruthless Eric Northman I know.”

“You just don’t know him, then. There’s a lot more to him than you’ve ever seen, I promise you,” Sookie wiped her hands on a towel under the bar and headed to the booth next to the jukebox where two women and a man just sat down.

‘Alright,’ Bill thought to himself, ‘Eric is an accomplished liar, but can he be good enough to fool Sookie in the bond? There’s no way to hide your feelings from your bonded, is there?’ Bill’s young age was a definite disadvantage in this case. He had never been bonded, so he only had the descriptions of others to go on. As he understood it, it wouldn’t be possible for Eric to hide his true feelings from Sookie. If she was being flooded with positive feelings… Bill’s mind rapidly ran through all of the interactions he had had with Eric concerning Sookie. Eric stated clearly that he cared about Sookie, and that the reason was none of his business. As impossible as it seemed, Bill was beginning to think Eric might really be in love!

Bill thought about that for a minute. On one hand, this was a potential weakness, and the first Eric had ever shown. On the other hand, if he really cared about Sookie, it might make him even more vicious than ever. He had promised to stake anyone that interfered with his relationship with her. Eric’s words came to mind, “she’s meant for me, and I shall have her” and “there are larger forces at work than you can possibly imagine.” Did Eric believe there was there some form of magick involved? Bill knew next to nothing about sorcery and not much about other forms of Supes. The available expert on these matters was Sophie Ann, but Bill knew better than to relay information about Eric to the Queen. Eric would kill him if he thought Bill was informing on him in any way. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to pump Sophie Ann for some general info. She loved to show off her extensive knowledge of esoterica of any sort. It wouldn’t be hard to get her to educate him a bit – she’d jump at the chance, especially if others were around. Bill hadn’t planned to attend the next party, but that would be a perfect time to find her in a gregarious mood.

“Hey, Bill, how are you?” Sam was mostly being polite because he owned the bar. He could live without these vampires coming in, but Bill wasn’t after Sookie anymore, so what the hell. His money was as green as anybody’s.

“Fine, thank you.”

“Can I get you another blood? I’m about to make last call.”

“Oh, no, thank you, I’ll just finish this up and be on my way.”
“You’ve talked to Sookie, I guess?”

“Yes, and to Eric earlier.”

“Is there anything…?” Sam stopped himself.

Bill knew what he wanted to ask. “The bond can only be broken by killing him, and trying that would be a fool’s errand. It would take an army to oppose Eric.”

“Yeah, that’s my understanding of it, too. Did she understand what she was doing?”

“Honestly, yes, I think she did. She’s very excited about it.”
“Well, I hope he doesn’t hurt her.”
“Or get her hurt by someone else. At this point, that seems almost inevitable.” Bill stood and pulled out his wallet.
“Yeah, I’m afraid so, too.”
“Look at it this way – Eric will do everything in his power to protect what is his. Anyone who threatens her will meet the edge of Eric’s sword, no matter who they are. I suppose we can take some comfort in that.”

“That’s somethin’, I guess. Good night, Bill.”

“Good night.” Bill headed for the front door.

“LAST CALL!” Sam loved the way that always set the girls buzzing, running to do a last check on their tables, running up for one last pitcher or a few bottles, the beginning of bussing tables and cleaning up that always made Sam feel secure and content for some reason.

Sookie finished her tables and gathered up the salt, pepper and sugar shakers on a tray while Kim started putting chairs upside down on the tables that were empty. Arlene was gathering up empties left on the ledges by the pool table and shooing people toward the door. Once the last person was gone, Sam locked the front door and started closing out the cash register.

Arlene jumped in to help Sookie refill shakers so Kim got stuck mopping the floor. Lafayette or Terry Bellefleur normally did that, but they closed the kitchen early tonight and were long gone.

“So Sookie,” Arlene started in, “those new earrings you’re wearin’?”

“Yes, they’re a gift from Eric. There’s a pendant, too, see?” Sookie pulled the larger ruby out from under her t-shirt and held it forward a minute.

“Hmm – ‘sat silver or white gold?”
“It’s white gold, of course. Vamps don’t like silver.”

“Are they real?”

“Yes, Arlene, they’re genuine rubies.”

“Bet they cost a pretty penny.”

“I wouldn’t know – I couldn’t exactly ask him how much they cost, now, could I?”

“Well, if that’s real gold and those are genuine rubies, I’d say they cost more than your car.”

“That can’t be possible, can it?” Sookie was sure they couldn’t be that expensive.

“Let’s put it this way – I ain’t ever seen genuine rubies in any of the catalogs. They’re always those fake cubic zirconia whatevers ‘cos rubies are a precious gem like diamonds and emeralds.”

“I wouldn’t know, Arlene, and I’m not going to go looking it up. Eric wanted me have something to represent what we mean to each other so I’m happy to have them, whatever they’re worth.”

“Wow – you guys are movin’ right along, aren’t you?”
“Yeah – so? We just clicked.”
“Love at first sight, huh?” Arlene was trying to needle Sookie, but she was awash in positive feelings flowing from Eric, who for some reason didn’t feel very far away.
“Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess it was.” Sookie was talking more to herself now, not really thinking that it was Arlene she was talking to.

“When we met it was so intense! I never felt anything like it. It’s like we’ve known each other for years. I thought it was just me at first, but he felt it, too, and came to find me.”

“Soulmates, huh? But then, vamps don’t have souls – they’re dead.”

Sookie snapped out of it. “Says who? Eric has as much soul as anyone else! Maybe more because he’s so old.”

“Well, this preacher on TV the other night said they’re unnatural demons from Hell.”

“Don’t believe everything you see on TV, Arlene,” Sam said from behind the register.

“Thanks, Sam,” Sookie said, wishing Arlene would go away now.

“Made a lot of sense if you ask me. Our pastor at church is going to give a whole sermon about ’em next weekend.”

“Whatever.” Sookie took the salt, sugar and pepper containers back to the kitchen.

“Do you need me to do anything else, Sam?” Sookie was more than ready to go home.

“No, Cher, that’s all for tonight. You can head on home.”

“Cool, thanks!” Sookie went into the office for her purse, then went out the back door to her car. She was on the road before Arlene realized she was gone.

Sookie was about half way home when she heard a weird rattling under the hood, then another loud clunk and the car died. Shit. She was in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t relish the thought of walking the rest of the way home in the dark. The moon was nothing but a crescent and she didn’t even think she had a flashlight in the trunk. There were no streetlights this far out in the country. She was debating whether home or Merlotte’s was closer when her cell phone rang.

“Eric?”

“Yes, Sookie, what is wrong?”

“Oh – my car just broke down. Did you feel that?”

“I felt something was amiss. Where are you?”

“About half way home, where there are no lights or anything.”

“Alright, lock all your doors, put on your emergency lights and stay put. I’ll be there in about 10 minutes. Don’t open your doors to anyone but me.” Eric turned back to Jason, whose eyes were bulging because Eric had him by the throat up against the door of his truck. “Remember what I said, Stackhouse. When you insult your sister, you insult me. The next insult will be the last mistake you ever make. This is the only warning I’m going to give you and you’re only getting it because Sookie would be hurt if you died. If I have to come out here again, they will never find your remains. Are we clear on that?”

“Yes.” Jason managed to squeak out. Eric let him go, and waited for Jason scramble into his house before he took to the sky.

“Oh, OK.” Sookie hung up the phone switched on her blinkers and locked all the doors, then settled back to wait for Eric. She considered calling Gran, but chose not to wake her. There wasn’t a sign of anyone out here, so she passed the time playing solitaire on her phone. After about five minutes, Sookie saw something run across the road in front of her, but it was too dark to make it out and she only caught it in her peripheral vision. Her mind must have been playing tricks on her because she could swear that it was a person with the head of a bull. Sookie figured she was just seeing things because she was tired. She didn’t think anything about it until something jumped on the hood of her car, clawing at the windshield.

Sookie screamed and screamed, even after the creature turned and ran back into the woods. She was still screaming when Eric knocked on her window.

“Eric! Eric! Did you see it? Hurry, get in the car!”

“You stay put, Sookie. I’m going to take you home now.” Sookie was never so glad to see anyone in her life but then suddenly she realized that she and her car were being lifted into the air!

‘He can fly, Sookie, remember? He can fly. Calm down,” she told herself. “We’ll be home and safe in a minute.” She was desperately trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Eric could fly with a car in his hands.
In much less time than it would have taken to drive that distance, Eric set her gently down in her usual parking spot outside the house. Sookie couldn’t get out of the car and into his arms fast enough.

“Alright, Dear One, it’s alright now. Shh… go on into the house and let me in your window.”

She was reluctant to let him go, but he walked her up to the steps to her house and let her get inside and the door locked, then he want up to her window. Sookie tiptoed through the house as quickly as she could without waking Gran up and she was at her window immediately. Eric slipped quietly in, and she grabbed him around the waist and held on for a long time. Eric just petted her hair and her back and spoke softly to her until she stopped shaking. Gradually, he got her to kick off her shoes and lie down with him, but he knew to wait until she was much calmer before he initiated anything sexual. She needed to feel safe right now, and he flooded the bond with comfort and security as she snuggled against his chest.

After about half an hour, Sookie was breathing normally and looked up at him. He smiled down at her and she stretched her neck upward for a kiss.
“Thank you,” she whispered.

“No need to thank me, dear one.” He smoothed her hair back from her face, “I’m sorry I was not there sooner to spare you that fright.”

“What was that thing?”

“I didn’t get a good look at it, but I smelled the stench. I’ll investigate as I make my way home tonight.”

“Be careful! Please don’t get hurt!”

“Nothing will hurt me, Sookie, I’ll be fine. Just relax, now, and try to enjoy our time together.”

“We don’t have a lot of time – we should get undressed.”

“Are you sure you are up to sex tonight? We don’t have to…”

“I want to! Don’t you?”

“Yes, of course I do, I just don’t want to push you if you are not up to it.”

“I think I really need it right now,” she began to sit up and tried to get the tail of her t-shirt out of her waistband. Eric helped her out of her clothing and put her under the covers, then he stripped very quickly and got in with her.
He took her in his arms and kissed her, gradually getting a little playful and making her smile and laugh a little.
“Eric?”
“Yes, Dearest?”
“Don’t you dare buy me a car!”

Eric cracked up. “You know me that well already?”

“Yeah, I do, and it’s way too soon for you to spend that kind of money on me.”

“Would you consider a compromise?”

“Such as?”

“I have yours repaired tomorrow and get you a rental car to drive until it is usable?”

“That’s still a lot of money… but I don’t see how I’m going to get to work any other way. Jason can’t take me and Arlene and I aren’t exactly buddies at this point. There’s no way I want Gran out alone at that time of night. I could ride my bike but with that thing out there…”

“Alright, then, you leave it to me and you will have a ride to work tomorrow.”

“Thanks. I know you aren’t crazy about me working there, and all, but…”

“Do not worry about that, Sookie. I want you to be happy and do what is comfortable for you.”

“You think I’ll quit eventually, don’t you?”

“I have to be honest with you because of our bond. Yes, I do.”

“Does the bond force you to be honest?”

“No, but respect for it does. To honor you and honor our bond, I must be honest with you.”

“Wow – that’s deep,” she joked, still struggling to grasp the real meaning of the bond. The more she learned about it, the happier she was that they had done it.

“Yes, it is.” He kissed her forehead and then she laid her head against his chest.

“OK, honestly, if you could make me do anything you wanted me to do – not sexually, of course, but in terms of lifestyle – what would you want me to do?”

“I would want you to live with me in Shreveport and let me support you.”

“Are you operating on the assumption that that is eventually going to happen?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah, me too, just not too fast. I don’t want to just abandon Gran all at once.”

“There are empty rooms on the second floor…”

“She’ll never leave this house. Just give me some time to see how she feels about it when we’ve been together for a while. We need to do this in stages. Let her get used to me spending a couple of days a week away, then we’ll increase it, and eventually I’ll move from Merlotte’s to Fangtasia, but I do want to work so I can contribute something to the house…”

Eric tried not to laugh out loud. “That is very sweet of you, Sookie, and I want you to do what is most comfortable for you, but just being with me is all the contribution you could make. I have more money than you can imagine, but your time is priceless to me.”

“I’d still like to work at Fangtasia with you so we’d have more time together.”

“Alright, we’ll consider that one of your transitional steps.”
“OK, and keep in mind, I’ll need to give money to Gran.”
“I told you, Sookie, I’ll provide anything she needs.”

“I don’t know if she’ll take it, though.”

“You can give her gifts, so she won’t refuse, and as for the taxes on this property, I can have my day man go to the county clerk’s office and pay those up so she’ll only get a bill for zero. If you give me the account numbers, I’ll have automatic payments set up for your electricity, gas, and water. These are small things, Sookie, neither of you need worry about them.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. If I were not willing and able to do those things, I would not have bonded with you. I almost wish…” he stopped for a second – did he really want to suggest this?

“Wish what?”

“That we could just explain it to her so she’d know I cannot leave you now.”

“We will at some point but not so soon. She’d be really upset if she knew I did something permanent so quickly.”

“Alright, then, we will wait,” he feigned suffering, teasing her and made her giggle.

He loved the sound of her laughter. He would do anything to make her smile or laugh and he already found himself trying to think of things to please her when they were apart.

“Eric, don’t do anything like that just yet. Give me some time to prepare her for it, OK?”

“Yes, of course, Sookie.” He kissed her hard then and they stopped talking. By the time he had to leave, Sookie was spent and sleeping soundly. He made a brief round through the woods where Sookie had seen the creature, but the scent was fading so he knew it had left the area hours before. For some odd reason, the trail stopped cold at the edge of the woods. He’d make a point of searching for it every night on his way from Sookie’s house, in case it was a danger to the neighborhood. It was a little too close to the Stackhouse residence for Eric’s liking. He took some comfort in knowing it was probably a creature of the night, as most Supes were, so they should be safe in the daytime. He knew from the scent and from Sookie’s description it was not a normal animal of any sort.

Eric left a message for his day man about what he wanted done regarding Sookie’s car. He had devised a little scheme that he hoped would end in replacing that yellow piece of shit she drove permanently, and he went to bed with a satisfied grin, having put the wheels in motion, so to speak.

Adele was making tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, thinking about waking Sookie up so she could eat and get ready for work, when there was a knock at the door.

“Ms. Stackhouse?” The same gentleman who had delivered the lawn mower was on their front porch again and this time, he had a tow truck with him and a car on a trailer.

“Did you want Mrs. Adele Stackhouse or Miss Sookie?” Gran already knew the answer.
“Miss Sookie, if she’s available – I believe she’s expecting us.”
“Just a moment, please,” Adele went back in to the bottom of the stairs, pretty sure what was going on, “Sookie, Honey, are you awake? You have a visitor.”
“Be right down, Gran!” Sookie grabbed a little yellow knit tank dress and a pair of panties and threw them on, then bopped down the stairs. “What’s up, Gran?” she asked as she gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“He’s at the door.”

Sookie opened the door, and saw a slightly plump Southern man of the suit-and-tie wearing, good ol’ boy type. “Hi, can I help you?”

“Miss Sookie? Pleased to meet you, Miss,” he offered his hand and she shook it, “I’m Bobby Burnham, Mr. Northman’s daytime representative. We’re just here to have your car taken to the shop, and drop off the rental for you to use. He said you’d be expecting us?”

“Oh, yeah, he did say something about that. What do I need to do?”

“You just give me the keys to your car, we’ll load it up and we’ll leave this other for you to use as long as you want to.”

“OK, my keys are in the kitchen. Would you like to come in and have a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, no, thank you, dear. I’ll just wait here, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, I’ll be right back with them.” Sookie ran to the kitchen counter and grabbed her keys, taking the house key off the ring as she came back through the living room. “Here you go, Mr. Burnham,”

“Alright, my dear, we’ll load it up and get you squared away. It’s the yellow car, yes?” He turned and motioned to the tow truck.

“Yes, it is. Thank you so much!”

“Not at all, not at all.” He took the keys down to the yard and gave them to the guys with the tow truck, then directed the men with the rental car, which looked brand new, to drop it in the spot cleared by the truck.

Sookie stood watching from the porch as Adele came out to join her.

“I take it Mr. Northman is behind this?” Adele said with as much calm as she could, considering how nervous she was.

“Yeah, my car broke down last night and Eric had to come get me. I told him not to dare buy me a new car and he offered a compromise, which was to get my car fixed and get me a rental to use in the mean time.”

“Are you comfortable taking another large gift from him already?”

“Well… yeah, actually, I am, just because it’s temporary and I need a way to get to work. Eric would like me to just quit my job altogether, so it’s kind of cool that he’s willing to do something to let me keep the job.”

“He doesn’t want you to work? How does he expect you to pay bills?”

“I told him it’s way too early for this, but what he wants to do is set up automatic payments for everything here.”

“You mean household bills?”

“Yeah, electric, gas, water – even the taxes on the house. He’d pay for everything if we’d let him.”

“Sookie, Honey, this is moving awfully fast. Are you sure you want to let Mr. Northman that far into your life so soon?”

“I know it seems fast, Gran, but Eric is in and he’s not going away. We’re forever.”

“Oh, my.” Gran sat down in the rocker on the porch and watched as the tow truck pulled away and they moved the trailer with the car, then drove it down a ramp that was built into it.

“Gran, are you upset with me?”

“No, Honey, this is just all very sudden. You’ve gone from being a single working girl to very nearly a fiancé to a very wealthy man practically over night. I’m just afraid that all this money is such a temptation, that you might forget what’s really important.”

“None of it would mean anything if Eric didn’t love me, Gran. I don’t think I’m being dazzled – not too much, anyway – it’s just that when a need arises, instead of scraping by or making do like we usually do, Eric is able and willing to fill the need. You’re not up to driving me to and from work, and Jason wouldn’t if he could and Arlene is being a pain in the butt, so I’d have to miss work at the same time I’d have to come up with money to have the car towed and repaired. That would wipe out the little bit of money I’ve got saved, if I even had enough to cover the repairs.”

“Well, I suppose that’s true. I just worry you’ll become dependent on him and then find yourself wanting out with nowhere to go.”

“That won’t happen, Gran. If anything ever went wrong, I could always come here, right? And I’ve never been afraid of hard work, it’s just…”

Mr. Burnham came back up the steps with a set of keys and an envelope and he was talking fast. “Alright, my dear, here are the keys to the rental. Now, Mr. Northman has a three-year lease on it, so you use it just as long as you want, and these,” he handed her the envelope, “are for both of you to use on anything you want, anytime you want, so don’t be shy about it. Make sure you sign the backs. I’m late for a meeting. See y’all later.” He was off the porch and into his car as fast as he could move because Mr. Northman told him they might try to refuse and that under no circumstances was he to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Sookie and Adele were shocked as they looked into the envelope. There were two Visa cards inside, one with each of their names on them.

“Did he say there’s a three-year lease? It was just supposed to be a rental for a couple of days!” Sookie couldn’t believe it. Eric just handed her a new car and a credit card. “Gran, I had no idea he was going to do this!”

“He’s full of surprises. He’s also apparently not used to people saying ‘no’ to him. He just does what he wants no matter how other people feel about it.” Gran was trying not to get angry, but this was a big deal.

“Well, no, I don’t think people say ‘no’ to him very often…” Shit. Sookie was sure Gran was going to hit the roof.
“I don’t want you to rush into anything, Sookie, but I think we both know you’ve passed that point already. If he’s going to insist on spending this kind of money on you, the next surprise better be an engagement ring. I won’t have people thinking you’re some rich man’s mistress. Tongues were already wagging. When you pull into Merlotte’s tonight in a brand new car, that’s just going to be fuel for the fire. I fully expect it to be a very long engagement so you can get to know him better, but if you’re going to have his cars and his credit cards, by Heaven, there better be a ring on your finger. I made it perfectly clear to him that I won’t have you treated like a kept woman.”

“He’ll give me a ring as soon as he knows I’ll accept one…”

“Fine. Not another dime until you’ve got a ring on your finger, is that clear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Alright, go look over your new car and see if it needs gas. I’m sure it’s got a full tank, but you need to know if you need to leave early tonight. I don’t want you speeding.” Gran went back in the house, taking the envelope with her and letting the screen door slam behind her.

Sookie knew she better let Gran have time to cool off so she went over to look at the car, which turned out to be a brand new, metallic blue Camaro. Sookie got in and started it up and it purred like a kitten. Gran was right – the gas tank was full. The book was on the passenger seat so Sookie took a few minutes to look through it and learn where the switches and buttons were. The insurance papers were inside the book so she put them in the glove compartment. She played around with the radio, made a note to bring some CDs out with her for the drive to work, and learned how the seat worked. The interior was black leather and the dashboard looked like the cockpit of a plane. The only car this fancy Sookie had ever been in was Eric’s ‘Vette.

Sookie felt like she was on a roller coaster. Part of her knew she should be mad at Eric for doing this, but this was really cool. She knew she should make Eric take the car back, but realistically, she knew he wouldn’t do it. It flashed through her mind that she couldn’t wait for Jason to see it, but then she realized Jason was going to have a heart attack when she showed up in this fancy car. Arlene would absolutely shit herself, a thought which made Sookie snicker, though she immediately felt bad about it. She realized Gran was right, though – if she was going to be driving Eric’s car, there needed to be some evidence of a commitment.

It also occurred to her that in a way, this made getting engaged easier. Instead of Gran objecting to a ring, now she was demanding it. Sookie knew Eric would be thrilled about that, and truth be told, so would she. She wanted the whole world to know that she was Eric’s and Eric was hers. The necklace and earrings were nice, but they were just jewelry.

Everybody knows what an engagement ring means!

Sookie figured Gran was probably a bit cooler now and she was getting hungry, so she took the book for the car in with her, where Gran had set the table with bowls of soup and a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches. Sookie sat in her usual place and Gran knew she was afraid to say anything.

“Sookie, you know I’m not accusing you of anything untoward, don’t you?” Gran sat down at the table.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sookie said as she took a gooey, warm cheese sandwich from the plate.

“But we both know that your relationship with Mr. Northman has gone beyond dating, and people know about it, so there needs to be a commitment.”

“He already said he wanted to give me a ring, Gran. I told him to wait a while, but if you think I should have it now, all I have to do is tell him that.”

“I want you to know that I’ve given this a lot of thought, Sookie. I’d insist you give the car back, but yours isn’t really safe to drive and we both know that. I won’t have to worry about you getting stranded in this new one, and I’m also pleased to know that Mr. Northman came all the way from Shreveport in the middle of the night to get you home safely. This is far too sudden for my tastes, but at this point, your reputation is at stake. You’ve always been a good girl, and I want people to know you still are. There’s nothing wrong with a fiancé getting his intended a decent car or making her life a little easier. That’s what they’re supposed to do, though most wouldn’t have the resources to be so generous.”

“Just so you know, Gran, if I say it’s OK, he might show up with a ring tomorrow…”

“The sooner the better. Before you go to work, I want you to call Mr. Northman and thank him for his kindness and let him know that because it would be unfair to make you give back his gifts, I feel that there needs to be an official engagement in place. He’ll understand what I mean. Be very specific – no more gifts until you are officially engaged.”

“OK, Gran. I’ll call him as soon as I get done eating, then I have to hit the shower if I’m going to make it to work on time.”

“That’s fine then. Now, what kind of car is it?” Adele tried to be happy for Sookie as she bubbled over about how pretty and fancy the new car was, and how it had a CD player and the insurance papers were already in the car.

This was scary. It was scary that Adele was going to be alone soon, and it was scary that Sookie was already so attached to someone so much older and so much more sophisticated. So far Eric had been very respectful and kind but Adele was afraid that was the rush of a new relationship and that later on he might not be so generous and loving. That was a possibility in any relationship, of course, which is why you take these things slowly. Sookie had done in days what should have taken months, but it was done. Now that she had spent the night with him, Adele felt it was only right that Sookie consider it a commitment and give the relationship her full devotion as long as he was faithful and treated her well.

As soon as she was done eating, Sookie bounded upstairs and grabbed her cell off the nightstand. She was excited to tell Eric what Gran had said, even if Gran was a bit hot when she said it. She was about to burst as the phone rang.
“Eric Northman,” said the message. That was it – nothing else, just his voice saying his name.
“Hi, Sweetie. Gran wanted me to call you so you’d get this message first thing. First, thank you for getting my car worked on and for the rental, you sneak. Mr. Burnham said there was a three-year lease, so I assume you intend for me to keep it, right? Gran was a little unhappy that you spent that much money, and had those credit cards delivered, so she said, and I quote, “not another dime until there’s a ring on your finger.” So, if you still want to get me an engagement ring, go for it. She says without it, accepting all this money makes me look like your mistress. She said she expects it to be a long engagement, but if I’m going to be driving your car and using your credit card, there better be a commitment. I almost think she might let you pay some bills if we’re officially engaged. Anyway, I love you and I can’t wait to see you tonight. I get off at the same time. Thanks again! Muah!” She did her best to send a kiss across the phone line, then bounced up off the bed and into the shower.
Sookie knew what Arlene and her ilk would say, but Sookie was still looking forward to driving in to work in that awesome blue Camaro. After Jason had his hissy fit, he’d be totally jealous because he always liked them when he was in school. Sookie gave Gran a big hug and kiss, and headed out for work a few minutes early because she couldn’t wait.
The lot was full tonight, the dinner rush stretching out into the night because there were a lot of locals who just decided to hang. Kim was pulling into the lot just as Sookie got out of her car, and her eyes bugged out.
“Wow, Sookie – did you buy a new car?” Kim’s short brown curls were dancing around her face as she walked.

“Oh – no, I borrowed it from a friend.”

“Your boyfriend, Eric?” Kim thought the whole thing was very romantic and exciting.

“Yeah, he said I could use it as long as I wanted because mine broke down last night and he had to come get me.”

“Wow – he’s a doll. He’s so good looking, too!” They started toward the back entrance together, chatting, as Lafayette came out to put some garbage in the bin.

“Ooh – ee, Sookie! Whose Camaro are you driving?”

“It’s Eric’s!” Kim told him, almost as excited as Sookie was, “isn’t that sweet?”

“Damn, girl, he’s a keeper! Has he got a brother?” Lafayette joked.

“If he does, I got dibs!” Kim laughed.

“Yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy,” Sookie agreed, blushing a little.

“You’re so lucky, Sookie,” Kim said as they entered the back of the bar and headed for Sam’s office. “It’s because you’re so sweet. You deserve a nice guy like that.” They were alone in Sam’s office now, putting their purses away and Kim whispered to Sookie, “don’t you pay no mind to that Arlene, girl, she’s just green. You enjoy that man as long as you can. The good ones don’t come along every day.”

“Yeah, that’s true. Believe me, I’m having fun, and I have no plans to stop.” The two of them giggled together as they went out front. Sookie thought that was cool that Kim would say that to her and thought maybe she might turn out to be a good friend. Arlene was becoming such a bigot, it was hard to deal with her. Between the reactionary preachers she listened to and René’s disappearance, she was getting so shrill she was hard to be around, and she was taking all her anger out on Sookie.

“Well, well! ‘Bout time you all got here.” Speak of the devil – Arlene was working a double shift today and she was in a rare mood.

Sookie thought maybe she could head it off before it started. “We’re actually five minutes early, Arlene. Why don’t you go on break? I’ll cover your tables.”

“I could use a cigarette. Keep an eye on the guys by the jukebox. They’ve run me ragged and I know they’re going to stiff me on the tip.”

“I’ll watch them. You go on.”

Unfortunately, that was a tactical error on Sookie’s part. While Arlene went back to get her Lucky Strikes, she overheard Lafayette and Terry talking about Sookie’s new car. Arlene came back from her break loaded for bear.

“So tall, blonde and dead is buying you cars now, huh, Sookie?”

“He did not buy me a car. It’s a rental he’s letting me use because mine broke down.”

“Uh-huh. When do you have to give it back?”

“I don’t, actually, I can keep it as long as I want. Here, table 7 left you two dollars.”

“Dang it! I knew it! So, did he rent it or lease it?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but he leased it.”

“For how long?”

“Three years, alright? Maybe he’s got other plans for it when I’m done with it.”

“Yeah, he’s got plans alright…” Arlene sneered.

“Hey, Sookie, your cell phone is ringing,” Sam said as he came out to the bar.

“You sure it’s mine?”

“Yeah, you’ve got that crazy Matchbox 20 ring tone. It’s rung twice – go make sure it’s not an emergency.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Sookie went back to check her phone and Sam motioned for Arlene to come over to him.

“Listen, Arlene, I want you to stop riding Sookie about her new boyfriend. You don’t want to make him angry and if she’s unhappy, he’ll be angry.”

“I’m not afraid of him if she’s not…” Arlene spat back.

“You’d better be afraid of him and she should be, too, even though he cares about her. Now stop pickin’ at her and pay attention to your tables. You got new people on 5.”

“Oh, alright,” Arlene headed to table 5 and Sam just shook his head. He didn’t know for sure if Northman would kill somebody for picking on Sookie but he figured it would be better not to find out, especially since he’d hold Sam responsible, too.

Sookie checked her phone – two missed calls from Eric! She hit the button to dial him back and was tickled to death when he picked up the phone.

“Sookie, my lover!” Eric was obviously very happy.

“Hey, Sweetie, what’s up?”

“I got your very surprising message and just wanted to confirm with you – your Grandmother said she WANTS me to give you an engagement ring?”

“Yeah, you coulda knocked me over with a feather. I think she figures you’re not going to stop spending money on me so a ring makes it more acceptable somehow.”

Eric laughed out loud. “You know, I did not think of it that way, but she is right, of course! I had no idea that a leased car was enough to tilt the scales in that direction. She didn’t think the necklace and earrings were enough?”
“I don’t know that she noticed them. The thing is, nobody knows what they mean unless I tell them. Everybody knows what an engagement ring means and I think she’s worried about what people around here think, you know, because most guys don’t lend girls cars and such.”

“This is about the difference between a kept woman and a wife, yes?”

“Yes.”

“And a ring means you will be a wife eventually. And she does not think it is too soon?”

“Yes, she does, but she figures a quick, long engagement is better than people thinking I’m a you-know-what.”

“Alright, when is your next night off?”

“I’m working early tomorrow, so I’ll be home by 7.”

“Alright, I’ll pick you up at 8 o’clock. I’m sorry I cannot come out tonight – I have important business that cannot wait.”

“Oh, that’s OK, Sweetie. I hate for you to come all this way when we only have a few hours anyway.”

“Yes, but I will when I must. Remember, I promised we’d try not to go 2 days without seeing each other.”

“OK, well, I should get back to work…”

“Alright, Sweetheart. By the way – happy anniversary.”

“Anniversary?”

“In a manner of speaking – we met one week ago, tonight.”

“Wow – it’s only been a week?”

“Yes, but…”

“It feels like years!”

“Yes, it does. Call me when you get home and get in bed, alright?”

“Definitely. I won’t be able to sleep without hearing your voice!”

“Goodbye, Sookie.”

“Bye!” Sookie stowed her phone and bounced back out to the bar, determined not to let anything, Arlene included, bother her tonight so she only sent Eric positives vibes.

Eric smiled as he hung up the phone. He brushed his hair and pulled it back with a black elastic holder. He threw on his long black coat, took a deadly sharp Katana from the locker behind his desk and pressed the buzzer to the front of the house.
“Yes, Master?”
“Tell Pam I’m working on the accounts and I’ll see her before closing.”
“Yes, Master.”

Eric knew Pam would know to let everyone think he was in his office all night, and he triggered an automated program set up to make it look as if he spent the evening working on his computer. He slipped out the back door of Fangtasia and took to the sky, steeling himself for tonight’s assignment from Sophie Ann.
It was just after 8 PM when Adele answered a knock at the front door.
“Yes, Can I help you?” She was looking at an elegant looking man with long silver hair. He was impeccably dressed and carrying a cane with a carved handle.
“Mrs. Adele Stackhouse? I am Niall Brigant. I believe you knew my son.”

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