Chapter 1

I was physically and emotionally exhausted as I left the Queen’s suite and made my way to my room. So many things had happened today that I was having trouble wrapping my mind around it all, and unfortunately it wasn’t just the vampire political crap that I needed to think about.

The way Eric’s presence made me feel when he came into the Queen’s room was as unsettling as it was calming. Apparently our forced blood exchange meant much more than I thought at the time. Andre had mentioned bonding me to someone in the kingdom, but I didn’t know what that meant. I needed to know more about it and that meant I needed to talk to Eric. As much as I didn’t want to have another one of our awkward and emotionally charge run-ins, I needed to know what I was dealing with. Quinn wasn’t going to like me talking to Eric so there was another awkward conversation, but really it wasn’t his decision.

Quinn. I hadn’t even had time to think about everything that Jake had told me about Quinn’s past. Really, I felt sorry for him and part of me understood that he didn’t have a choice but to fight in the pits to pay off his debt. However, my real problem was that he hadn’t told me anything about it, and I’m not sure that he ever would have done so if Barry hadn’t brought it up. It was like Bill all over again, only telling me what he thought I needed to know about vampire life or only confessing about the Queen when Eric made him do so.

As I stood waiting in front of the elevator, I groaned out loud. What was it that Eric had said to me when he showed up outside of Merlotte’s? “You don’t know him any more than you really knew Bill.” Was he trying to tell me to be careful, and I was too stubborn to listen? Would I have listened if he tried to tell me more?

When the elevator car arrived it was empty, and I punched the button for my floor a little harder than needed. I was quickly working myself back up again as I thought about all the complications in my life.

I had run into Quinn’s sister earlier tonight, and I hadn’t even known that he had a sister. She also said that he didn’t tell her that he was dating someone. If she worked for him and he took care of her, then why wouldn’t he tell his sister about me? Did I not mean anything to him? If he saw her so much, wouldn’t they talk and if so, why hadn’t he mentioned me? It just seemed strange, and when things seemed strange in my life it normally led to something dangerous or painful.

I rested my head back on the wall of the elevator as it started to descend to my floor. How much did I really know about Quinn? After Bill, I had told myself that I wouldn’t jump into another relationship without knowing what I was getting into. I barely knew anything about him, and I hardly ever saw him. My heart sunk even lower when I realized I’d let my hormones and loneliness take over, and I’d slept with him based on a promise to spend more time together in the future. What was I thinking? I wasn’t, and that was the problem. I didn’t even want to consider what my Gran would say about this.

As I stepped out of the elevator and turned to walk to my room, I saw Quinn standing by my door waiting on me. I paused for a second before continuing to walk to my room. With everything else and all my internal ramblings, I’d forgotten that he was supposed to meet me here to talk about what happened with Eric. I wasn’t sure I had the strength for this tonight, but I didn’t want to make a scene in the hallway either. I really just needed a good night’s sleep – alone. I could figure it all out tomorrow.

So, I made my way to my room without a word and used the card key to open it. I had already mentally scanned the room, and I knew that Carla wasn’t here.

As Quinn came in behind me, he placed his arms around my waist and spoke quietly in my ear, “I have an idea.”

I stepped out of his embrace and turned around to face him. “What’s that?” I asked tiredly.

“Let’s just climb in bed and go to sleep.”

I was tempted. I was really tempted. His suggestion meant that there would be no more drama tonight. It meant that this exhausting day would be over, and I could just go to sleep. It meant that I wouldn’t be alone.

I closed my eyes and sighed. I was beginning to think that my last thought was the one that kept getting me in trouble. I was beginning to see that my fear of always being alone was what got me into this situation with a man I barely knew just as it was that same fear that had set me on my path to heartache with Bill.

I must have been quiet for too long because the next thing I knew Quinn was brushing my hair out of my face.

“Babe?” I opened my eyes to see him studying my face. I know to him the suggestion of just climbing into bed and going to sleep had to seem so simple. He didn’t have a clue of all the things going through my mind. I really didn’t want any drama so I hoped I could word this correctly so that he wouldn’t get upset.

“Quinn, I know this might sound strange, and I hope it doesn’t hurt your feelings, but I think what I really need after everything that happened today is to be alone. I hope you understand,” I said softly, and I’m sure there was a bit of pleading in my voice.

He furrowed his eyebrows for a few seconds before he grabbed my hand. “I know you’ve been through a lot today, Babe,” he paused before he continued,” and I know you’ve learned a lot about me. But I want you to talk to me and let me be here for you. Don’t shut me out. I can help you. You don’t have to be alone.”

So this wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe I could try one more time.

“I appreciate that Quinn, really I do, and it’s really sweet. I promise we’ll talk tomorrow.” I squeezed his hand to show that I really did appreciate his offer, “but I’m too tired tonight for any talking or listening. I really just want to crawl in bed.”

He smiled. “Just like I suggested,” and he moved to sit on the edge of the bed. Okay, maybe it was my exhaustion taking over, but he was really starting to frustrate me.

“Quinn, I’m sorry but I want to go to bed alone.” I said softly but more firmly than before.

His head jerked up so that his eyes met mine. “What’s this really about Sookie?”

Crap. I was Sookie now and not Babe. Not that I minded because I didn’t really like the nickname much. It offended my inner feminist, but I just hadn’t felt like bringing it up.

“Quinn. I’ve told you I’m tired. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted, and I just can’t handle anything else tonight. I want my space. I want the world to leave me alone so that I can get in my bed and go to sleep and forget about everything and everyone.” There. I know my frustration was very evident in my voice but that’s as plain as I can put it.

“This is about Eric,” he sneered.

“WHAT?” I didn’t even see that one coming.

“Is that why you want me to leave? So that Eric can come to your room or so you can sneak off to his? Is he already taking control of you?” He was on his feet now, and I could see the anger growing in his face. I didn’t have the energy for this male posturing.

“No, he’s not controlling me and no one ever will,” I yelled at him. I wanted to go to bed, and I was not getting into this tonight so I started walking towards my door as I continued. “And this is not about Eric or you. This is about me, and I’m not asking anymore. I want you to leave my room so I can go to bed.”

I had my hand on the doorknob when he grabbed my arm and whirled me around to face him.

“No. I’m not leaving like this. That vamp is messing with your head, and I’m not going to let him take you from me. You’re my woman, and he needs to know that fact isn’t changing regardless of what happened in that damn hallway,” he yelled back at me, and all I wanted to do was slap him. He was as bad as the vampires with their “mine” crap. How had I never seen this side of him before? Was I really that blind or had he been carefully hiding it away?

“First of all, I am my own woman and you should know that by now, but how could you know that since I never see you,” I accused as he allowed me to pull out of his grasp. “I understand you have problems with vampire. I really do, but no one is messing with me right now besides you. So, this is me telling you that I want you to leave.”

Before I could reach the doorknob again, Quinn had grabbed me by the shoulders to face him. His grip wasn’t quite painful but it wasn’t gentle either, and his eyes were starting to show hints of gold.

“You don’t know what you are saying, and the reason I know that is because you hate to be alone; that’s especially true when there’s so much chaos in your life.” He took a deep breath and seemed to be trying to calm himself. Then, he started speaking in a gentle voice like the one you would use to convince a child that there really wasn’t a monster in their closet. He also began running his hands up and down my upper arms as if he was warming them. He was trying to calm me down but truly it was just pissing me off more that he was treating me like a child. “Babe, I know you’ve had to go through a lot in the past, and you were forced to go through it all alone, but you don’t have to now. We both know that what you really want is for me to hold you while you go to sleep.”

He was right in that I did want someone to hold me while I fell asleep because I wanted to be comforted, but the fact that he was using his knowledge of my past and my weaknesses to get me to let him stay just made me more determined to get him out of my room. And I still didn’t understand WHY he wanted to stay so bad if all we were going to do is sleep?

“You know what? You’re right.” He physically relaxed when I said that because he didn’t see what was coming next. “Which is exactly why you are leaving because when I look back on the last couple months, I realize that I don’t know you and you don’t know me, so why the hell am I with you? Maybe I just screwed up because I was lonely.”

His hands dropped from my shoulders like I had burned him, and I pointed my finger into his chest. I knew I was being hurtful and it was unlike me, but I was exhausted and I no longer had a filter on my thoughts. “You didn’t tell me about your past in the pits. I didn’t even know you had a sister, and she sure as hell didn’t know you were dating me. Why is that Quinn? If I’m supposedly ‘your woman’ then why wouldn’t you tell your own sister?” He tried to interrupt me, but I had bigger fish to fry. “And why the hell are you so intent in staying in my room tonight buddy?”

Fuck. I have to fix this somehow or I’m screwed.

In my anger, I had let my shields drop and since he was touching me the thought just slipped through. Before I could really digest it, he was shaking with rage and yelling back at me. “Why can’t you see that this is all the vampire’s fault? We were fine until we came to their fucking summit.”

“What you mean is that we were fine because I didn’t know shit about you,” I yelled back. “But tonight I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that you don’t respect me because you won’t leave my room when I asked, and that you don’t give a shit about me because I told you I’m exhausted but all you want to do is fight.”

“I’m not leaving because we need to work this out and I do care that your tired, but I need to get through to you before you do something stupid like going to that vampire,” he hissed back at me.

“Oh, so now I’m stupid. You know what? I don’t care what you think anymore. Get the hell out of my room.”

“NO,” he replied as if it brokered no argument but then his thoughts added, “This is my chance to get us away from those fuckin’ vamps, but she’s part of the deal. Shit, I’m screwed if she breaks things off. I’m not going to let that happen.”

I kept my face the angry mask that it had been for the last five minutes and didn’t give away the fact that I heard his thoughts. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I had to get him out of my room.

I thought for a moment about my predicament. Quinn’s temper was on edge and he was desperate about something. I definitely needed to end things with him, but I didn’t think that doing it in my room with no one around was a smart decision. So, I took a deep breath before I continued. “I’m tired of fighting but you can’t stay tonight.” When he started to protest I held up a hand. “There’s too much tension now and it would take to long to get past it. We can talk tomorrow when I get up, but right now I’m asking you to please leave and let me sleep. Maybe this will all make more sense in the daylight.” I gave a half smile that I didn’t really feel but it seemed to work.

Quinn sighed and then pulled me into a hug that I really had to work not to pull away from. “I’m sorry Babe. I think we’re both just tired and overstressed. Tomorrow’s the ball, and we’ll dance and have fun and everything will be better.”

“Hopefully tomorrow will be better.” I purposefully didn’t comment on his assumption about the ball as I walked him to the door.

I bolted the door with the privacy lock and followed his brain pattern until I was sure he left the floor. Then, I pulled out my cell and called Pam. She was the only cell phone number I had and I only had about twenty minutes before sunrise to talk to the vampires. I had no idea what I was dealing with, and my brain was working to slow to work it out. But I knew that Quinn was no better than Bill at this point.

“This better be good.” She has such wonderful phone manners.

I started to respond with my story but then something stopped me. What if he bugged my room or my phone at some point? Was I being paranoid?

Better be safe than sorry. I hoped my pause wasn’t too noticeable if anyone was listening.

“Sorry. I know it’s close to sunrise, but I didn’t get those pumps from you that you said I could borrow for tomorrow. Do you think I have time to come up and get them really quick?”

Vampires are so much better at this cloak and dagger crap. There wasn’t a pause as she answered. “Whatever. Be quick. Room 914.” She hung up before I could say anything.

I scanned my floor of the hotel again to make sure Quinn wasn’t there before I walked out and quickly made my way to the elevator. Luckily the elevator was there very quickly and before I knew it, I was on the ninth floor.

And so was Quinn.

He was leaning on the wall opposite the elevator and to say he was angry would be the understatement of the year.

“Thought you were tired,” he spat at me.

I swallowed rather loudly before I forced out my answer. “I forgot to get some pumps from Pam for tomorrow. She’s expecting me.”

“Of course she is since she shares her room with Eric. Planning on a threesome are we?” He had started coming towards me, and I was getting scared because his eyes were starting to change shape.

“No. I’m afraid I don’t share well.” Normally I would be pissed at the implications behind Eric’s words, but right now all I could feel was relief that he was here.

“She’s not yours to share vampire,” Quinn hissed and I noticed his hands were starting to change into claws.

Eric just laughed him off. “Sookie, if you’re going to get the shoes before sunrise we need to go find Pam.” He motioned for me to go ahead of him down the hallway.

Before I could take my first step, Quinn was directly in front of me; his voice was deathly serious, “I will not allow you to go into his room. You are my woman.”

Okay. It was stupid, but I was now so hurt, offended, and angry with him that I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I was beyond reason. So, I hauled back and punched Quinn in the face. I’m sure it hurt me more than him, but I didn’t care.

“I am NOT yours and I go wherever the hell I please. Now, stay the hell away from me. I don’t want to see you ever again.”

If the situation hadn’t been so tense and serious, I might have laughed at the look on both of their faces. They both looked to be in shock at my words and actions, each for completely different reasons.

Eric recovered first and realized that I was standing a little too close to a very angry were-tiger. He had picked me up and sat me down in front of his door before I even registered I was being moved. Quinn roared in our direction and was close to shifting when several doors opened to investigate the hallway for danger since a tiger had just roared on a vampire floor.

“Sunrise is in ten minutes. I’m alerting the daytime guards that you are to be considered a threat if you are found anywhere near this floor. Now go.” Eric ordered.

Quinn stood up straight as he surveyed the different vampires peeking out into the hallway. I didn’t know if they would help Eric – if he needed it – but it seemed to be enough to make Quinn back down.

“This isn’t over,” he said menacingly.

“No, its not,” Eric said in a very dark voice as we watched Quinn get onto the elevator.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding as Eric opened his door and showed me inside. He was already on the phone with hotel security before I made it all the way into the room.

Pam wasn’t in the room so I asked him where she was as soon as he hung up the phone.

“She was in another room being entertained when you called. She asked me to take care of your ‘shoe emergency’,” he said as he quirked his eyebrow up in question.

I didn’t even know where to start and my body just decided to give out. Luckily I was standing in front of one of the full size beds, so I ended up just sitting on the edge as I placed my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands.

“Sookie? We only have a couple of minutes,” Eric prompted.

“I know. It’s just that I don’t know where to start.” I answered softly without raising my head.

“Well, it seems that you’ve obviously pissed off the tiger to the point that he seems to be a threat to you. I’ve always said you attract trouble,” he stated as he sat down on the bed opposite me. “So, was your coded call to Pam an attempt to get protection from him?”

I laughed half-heartedly. “Oh, that’s just a small part of it.” I sighed into my hands and finally decided to face the music as I raised my eyes to meet his. I couldn’t read anything there but impatience.

“It seems someone has been reading your Queen’s playbook except this time they sent a tiger,” I admitted tiredly. With the little bit of brainpower I had left tonight and the small amount of time I’d had to think over what I’d heard from Quinn’s mind, it was my best guess. “Apparently everyone knows that I’m easily fooled.”

Eric’s face revealed nothing, but I suddenly felt a very strong rush of anger and it confused me but then it was gone. “I see.”

“No, you don’t. Apparently, I’m only part of the deal. I don’t know what else he’s after,” I explained as I looked away from him, and we sat in silence for another minute. I was ashamed, embarrassed, hurt, and exhausted. On top of everything, it was hard to have to admit all this to Eric. In all honesty, it just made me wish I had my Eric back to hold me while I slept.

“I guess we’ll have to talk through the details tomorrow since the sun’s coming up, but I wanted to let you know because I feel like this has more to do with Louisiana than it does about me specifically.” I continued as I stood up. “Anyway, I’m going to go so you can rest.”

Eric was beside me before I could take a step. “You can’t go back to your room. It’s not safe. Pam’s not returning tonight so you can have her bed.”

“Eric, I can’t stay here,” I protested.

“Sookie don’t be stubborn. There’s security on this floor but not on yours. You need to stay here until nightfall, and we can figure out exactly what we are dealing with. You can order room service when you wake up,” he responded reasonably.

“But . . . ” I knew he was right, but I just didn’t think that sleeping in the same room with Eric was a good idea.

“Sookie, I will be dead to the world in just a couple of minutes so you don’t have to worry about your inability to resist me.” He continued with a playful smirk. “Unless you plan on molesting me while I’m unawares.”

“You are really full of yourself you know that.” I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I’d gotten so used to his innuendoes that I now found them funny, and I needed the laugh. Perhaps he knew that.

“Ah, but you could be full of me.”

“Ugh. Just stop,” I said as I pushed him away from me. “Go lay down and die already. I’ll stay. I’m just going to go use your washroom.”

As I opened the door to the bathroom, Eric called out for me. “Sookie? You will stay in the room until I rise?” The words were part command and part question.

“Yes. Heck, the way I feel right now you may be up before I am,” I responded as I walked into the bathroom.

“I could be up anytime to please you,” he replied back sexily right before I slammed the door. I heard him chuckling right before he abruptly went quiet, and I knew he had died for the day.

After washing my face, I realized I didn’t have anything to change into and my clothes would not exactly be comfortable to sleep in. Looking into the mirror, I saw one of Eric’s Fangtasia shirts hanging on a hook on the back of the bathroom door. I decided I would use it and just change back before he woke up at sunrise.

Luckily, when I opened the bathroom door, I found that the lamp beside the bed was still on so I could see where I was going. Obviously the light wouldn’t bother Eric who was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

I crawled into Pam’s bed and pulled the covers up to my shoulders. As I reached over to turn off the lamp on the bedside table, I took a moment to let my eyes rest on the Viking in the other bed. He was laying on his side facing my bed with one of his arms curled under his pillow. His hair was flowing loosely over his shoulders and pillow with one strand falling softly over his cheek. Resisting the urge to go over to him and brush that piece of hair behind his ear, I turned off the lamp.

Just before I fell into my dream world, a single traitorous tear made its way down my cheek, because in his daytime slumber, with his face completely relaxed, he reminded me of my Eric.

I was pacing in front of Eric’s desk in his office at Fangtasia. He was sitting behind the desk leaning back in his chair with his arms folded over his chest.

What is it that you want from me Sookie?” Eric asked coolly.

I want you to help me, Eric.” I said desperately. “Quinn’s going to find me soon and they are going to take me away to some other state. I don’t want to go. Please you have to help me.”

Why should I? Whenever I attempt to help you or warn you, you become angry and accuse me of being high-handed.” He challenged.

I stared at him for several seconds. Is he right? Surely, I don’t do that. I would never be angry with someone for trying to help me.

And if I even suggest that I want you to be mine, you go into a feminist tirade, or even better, you through some other man in my face,” Eric added bitterly.

That’s because I don’t want to be a possession Eric!” I shouted at him.

So, you prove my point. You are so blinded by your own pride that you focus on the word and not its true meaning. You’ve never bothered to find out what it would mean to be mine,” he spat at me as he stood up and leaned over his desk.

Fine, Sherriff. Then tell me what it would mean,” I answered sarcastically.

He was in front of me in the blink of an eye, and a single finger traced my cheekbone as he spoke softly. “It would have meant being cherished, protected, and provided for so that you didn’t have to worry all the time. I would worship your body every night and hold you in your sleep. All these things and you would still be the independent, fiery woman I first met in a bar that stared down a thousand-year-old vampire without a hint of fear. The only difference would be that you wouldn’t be alone anymore when you faced the world.”

I had difficulty swallowing the lump that rose in my throat as he was speaking and trying not to let the tears fall. Unwillingly, the next words slipped from lips. “But could you love me?”

Suddenly, Eric’s face seemed to show all of his age as he dropped his hand and sighed. Instead of looking at me, he looked at the door as he whispered, “I don’t know. I’ve never really loved anyone. I was hoping to learn how with you. That if anyone could show me, you would. But we never got the chance.”

Before I could respond the door to his office was thrown open and Quinn entered with four other vampires.

I told you not to try to get away. Now you’ve wasted our time so you won’t be able to say goodbye to your friends,” he snarled at me.

I turned back to Eric and begged for his help. “Please. You have to help me. You’re right. I’ve been blind. Please Eric.”

Eric’s face reflected nothing, but I could see the pain in his eyes. “I’m sorry Sookie. You told everyone you were not mine and rejected our bonding. You have been claimed by another kingdom, and there is nothing I can do.”

Before I could say anything else, strong arms were wrapped around my waist pulling me out of the office as I screamed and hit at my capture.

“Sookie”

No. Stop. Let me go.” I screamed as I continued to kick my feet and scratch at the arms around me so I could go back to Eric. I had thought my Eric was gone, but he was there and I needed him.

“Sookie.” I felt myself shaking slightly. “Sookie. Wake up.”

“Please. Please don’t let them take me.” I was crying in defeat as I gave up fighting the arms that were holding me.

“I won’t Sookie,” I heard from a soft voice. “You’re safe here. Just wake up.”

Eric’s words finally broke through my dream and I opened my eyes. Eric had one of his arms under my shoulders, and my head was resting against his elbow. He was leaning over me slightly, and his sapphire blue eyes were staring down at me in concern.

It was that look, the one I’d seen so many times when he was staying with me, that broke me. I was still lost in the pain and fear of my dream, and I needed comfort. I needed my Eric. I needed the Eric that spent those nights with me when he didn’t know his past, and he would willingly show me that he cared for me. I needed his strength and the safety I felt in his arms. I needed to feel cherished. So, I decided to pretend he was here, and I turned into Eric’s chest and sobbed. For a moment he didn’t move, but slowly he leaned back onto the bed and pulled his arms around me so that my head was resting on his chest.

I couldn’t stop my tears or be embarrassed at my outburst. Instead I was thinking of how alone I felt, and how it always seemed that someone was trying to deceive me or take away my independence. Ever since I met Bill, I was constantly being hurt – either physically or emotionally. No one seemed to really value me as much as they did my ability or my blood.

My tears had slowed to a trickle instead of a flood when I realized that Eric was soothingly running his fingers through my hair. I tried to focus on the way his actions calmed me instead of letting myself focus on my dream any longer. It startled me when Eric spoke softly.

“He’s not worth your tears.”

“I don’t care about him,” I said scathingly. “I’m just tired of being used.”

“Then why were you with him?” He asked in a disbelieving tone.

My voice was emotionless as I responded without thinking. “Because I was tired of being alone and hurting all the time. So in my loneliness I let myself be blind and foolish in order to find some comfort.”

Shit. When I felt his body stiffen, it hit me that I was pouring my soul out to Eric Northman the Vampire Sherriff of Area Five. I was off the bed in an instant and walking to the bathroom.

“Um. Sorry about that little breakdown.” I’m sure my face was bright red with my embarrassment but I wasn’t looking at him to see his reaction. “Let’s just forget it. I’m going to use your restroom, change, and go back to my room.”

I closed the door to the restroom and leaned against it. What the hell was I thinking crying all over Eric? I needed to get out of here and quickly. I couldn’t stand any more drama than what I already had in my life, and I was not going to start thinking about Eric that way again. This was not my Eric.

When I opened the bathroom door my intention was to walk right out of his room altogether since the door to the hallway was only three feet from the bathroom, but Eric had other ideas.

“We still need to talk about what happened with Quinn,” he called out smoothly.

“Oh, right,” I said dejectedly as I walked back into the room. He was still in the same position that I left him in on my bed so I sat on the edge of his bed.

“So, what exactly happened last night?”

“He started freaking out whenever I told him I didn’t want him to stay in my room and . . . ” Before I could even finish that sentence, Eric had questions.

“Why didn’t you want him to stay?” He said the question without inflection, but I could tell he was curious.

“A whole barrel full of reasons,” I huffed as I explained. “The ones relevant to our conversation was that I was starting to put together some things that didn’t make sense, so I was questioning his motives and I wanted time to think about it. To him though, I tried to just say I was tired but he didn’t buy it.”

“Okay. So then you fought because he wanted to stay and you told him to leave.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but then I heard some of his thoughts.”

“I thought weres were hard for you to read.”

“They are,” I sighed. “But they are not complete blanks like vampires. They take a lot of concentration to read most of the time though so it’s easier to ignore.”

“You didn’t try to read him before?” Eric asked.

“Of course I did.” I actually laughed at that one. “Do you think after the shit with Bill that I wasn’t gun shy?”

“So you never heard anything incriminating before.”

“No. I didn’t.” Now, I had to confess a little and it was embarrassing to say this to Eric. “However, it’s not like we saw each other more than a few times and most of our conversations were on the phone.” I looked away as I said that last part, but I saw him nod out of the corner of my eye.

“Anyway, like I said. It’s harder to hear weres, but if they are running high on emotions then it’s easier. Plus, if they’re touching me it’s a lot clearer,” I explained.

“So, last night . . .” he said leading us back into the drama from last night.

“He was really angry and blaming everything on vampires. He got even angrier when I started spouting off at the mouth about how I wasn’t even sure I trusted him. So, with him being so angry and since he had grabbed me by the shoulders, I could hear a few thoughts really clearly,” I finished.

“Did he hurt you?” That surprised me.

“Um. No.” He just nodded in acknowledgment.

“So, what was he thinking?”

“At first it was just that he needed to fix things or he was screwed.” I shrugged because at first I didn’t think much of it. “Then though, I yelled at him to get out and he refused. He was thinking about how this was his chance to get away from the vamps and that I was part of the deal. He thought he was screwed if I broke things off so he wasn’t going to let that happen.” I paused to make sure I’d covered everything before asking, “So, what do you think?”

Eric sat up across from me on my bed before answering, “I think that we need to talk to the Queen, that Nevada wants to takeover Louisiana, and that you looked very sexy in my shirt.”

I let out a groan of frustration. “Is there ever a time when you don’t think about sex, Eric?”

“Not with you around,” he answered with a sly grin.

I just rolled my eyes and stood up to leave, but he was in front of me before I took my first step.

“Why do you always run?”

“What?” I asked surprised.

“You always used to run from Bill. I told you that once, if you remember,” he answered as he swept my hair back over my shoulder. “And you always run from me even though we both know that you want me.”

“Don’t we have more important things to deal with right now?” I asked and my annoyance was clear.

“See.” He smiled down at me. “You don’t deny that you want me, and you are still running.”

“Ugh,” I groaned pushing past him to walk towards the door. “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”

My hand was reaching for the doorknob when he said the words that made the floodgates open.

“I never took you for a coward, Sookie Stackhouse.”

I whirled on him in an instant. “What did you say to me?” After every thing I’d been through in the past year, how dare he call me a coward!

“You are afraid to have a real conversation with me. You are afraid to been alone with me. You are afraid of what you might hear or what you might say, so you run. You are a coward.”

Part of me knew he was baiting me, but I was still insanely offended and angry. I had protected his life from the witches for days, and he dared to call me a coward. I infiltrated the Fellowship, took a stake to protect a vampire, and staked Lorena. He calls me a coward! He freakin’ hides behind sexual innuendos to get away from having any real conversation.

“You are one to talk buddy,” I spat angrily at him. Two could play at this game.

I didn’t have to wait long for him to be right in front of me. “You and I both know that I am no coward.”

I actually laughed at him. “Yeah right. That’s why everything comes down to sex with you.”

“Don’t laugh at me, and you are not making any sense,” he growled.

“Oh really. Well let me walk you through it Viking,” I said pushing on his chest with one of my fingers. “Why do you want me to be yours?”

“Because I want to have sex with you.” He said like it was the obvious answer.

I poked him hard in the chest. “Wrong answer. You have sex with fangbangers all the time, and you don’t claim them. Try again.”

“You’re different,” he answered simply, but I caught the slight wrinkle in his brow. Something was starting to remind me of my dream, but I couldn’t quite place it. I shook off the feeling.

“Why? You’ve said before that it wasn’t the fairy blood,” I prodded him again. To be honest, I didn’t know where I was going with this either.

“You’re interesting.” Argh. It was like pulling teeth. Did he really not know the answer or would he just not say it? Maybe I should try a slightly different angle.

“Okay. Fine. You want me to be yours because you want to have sex with me, and I’m different because I’m interesting. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“So, you risked your life by taking a bullet for me in Dallas, you protected me at the orgy, you protected me when I was staked, and you’ve given me your blood all because I was interesting, and you wanted to have sex with me?” I challenged him.

Now, he looked annoyed at me. “What’s your point Sookie?”

“My point is that I don’t think you lived a thousand years by risking your life for someone that you want to have sex with because they’re interesting. So, what was the real reason, and why are you running from it?”

“I’m not running from anything,” he growled at me again.

“Bullshit.” Holy crap. I just realized where I was going with this tirade of mine and it took me back to my dream. Did he really care about me, and he just didn’t know how to show it or deal with it? Was I really going to push him to do so? What if he denied it? He’d already hurt me once when he forgot everything. I didn’t know if I could take a straight out rejection from him.

“Excuse me,” Eric asked pulling me out of my musing. Well, in for a penny in for a pound. There was no way to back out now.

“Just admit that you care about me,” I said plainly looking him in the eyes.

The shock on his face would have been priceless if I wasn’t so nervous about his response. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave me hanging very long.

“Vampires don’t feel the things humans do, Sookie. You should know that by now,” he answered coldly. It stung but I wasn’t going to give up yet. I wanted to see if my Eric was in there since I’d already started this conversation.

“So, you don’t think vampires love?” I asked without emotion.

“Vampires cannot afford to have emotions. It makes them appear weak, and they will be picked off by stronger, more ruthless vampires who know better than to have emotions,” he explained as if this should take care of everything.

“First, don’t think that I missed the fact that you avoided my question. However, if what you’re saying is true then a vampire’s existence is pathetic and should not be called a life.”

“Who are you to judge me? Pathetic? Pathetic?” He yelled at me. “You think living a thousand years is pathetic?”

I struggled to keep my calm façade in place with the angry Viking hovering over me, but I needed him to understand before I threw in the towel. “Yes, if you are saying that in order to live those thousand years you have to go through each day with no feelings, then yes I think its pathetic. What’s the point, Eric? Why get up and feed each night or try to protect yourself? Why exist just for the point of existing? What is there in your existence to make it worth calling a life?”

“You think I have no enjoyment? You think I don’t like feeding, fighting, and fucking? Because I can ensure you that I enjoy each immensely.” He had a smug smile on his face, and I knew that he thought he had won the argument but he was wrong.

“Momentary pleasures that fade away and leave you feeling numb, empty, and alone.” He actually flinched at my words, and I knew I had hit a nerve because vampires do not flinch. “What is the point of a life without people or things you care about Eric? I know it’s cheesy and it sounds like a freakin’ greeting card, but love is what life is about. Having things you care about that make the energy it takes to survive worth it. Having people in your life that share in your successes and your failures and not just because they owe it to you. These are all things that make an existence worth being called a life. Why do you fight it so much?”

“At twenty-five you think you know the mysteries of life and can teach them to a vampire that has lived centuries before you and will live centuries after you. You’re ego knows no bounds, Ms. Stackhouse. Love has nothing to do with living. It is a silly emotion that humans use to excuse irrational actions,” he said coldly and mockingly as he narrowed his eyes at me. “So, if you insist on an answer to your earlier question, the reason I want you as mine and I protect you is because I want to own you. You are a telepath, I want to fuck you, and you have fairy blood. All of those things are hard to come by, and I would be stupid to let that pass me by or let anyone else have you.”

It was like a knife twisted in my stomach a thousand times over, but I refused to cry or flinch. We stared each other down for what seemed like forever before I found the words I had to say. I had given him his opening. I had given him a chance, and he slammed the door in my face. There was nothing more to do but walk away and let go of any hope that my Eric still existed.

“Thank you for your honesty. My services are no longer available to you. I will never be yours. I no longer require your protection or your company. Even if you feel that I’m in danger, do not come. I don’t want you there. You’ve disappointed me enough.” I could see the surprise growing on his face no matter how much he tried to fight it. “I’ve played this cat and mouse game with you too much. I’m sick of you toying with my emotions while you insist that you have none of your own. I’m done.” With those words, I turned away to walk back to the door. When I was about two feet from the door, I turned around once more to face him because I knew he was still hiding, and I had one last thing I needed to say to him.

“In the years to come when you look back on this day, you will realize what you lost, and I want you to remember that you were the one that ran away.” I didn’t wait for a reaction as I turned and walked to the door.

His hand shot out from behind me and held the door closed. I didn’t turn around. There was nothing more to say. I’d given him the opening to claim me if he would just admit to his feelings. At first, I thought I might be wrong, but the longer the argument went on the more I read in his face and I knew I was right. I knew he cared for me, but it didn’t matter if he wouldn’t give in to it. I couldn’t make the choice for him. He chose to run this time, and there was no going back. I couldn’t stay in this limbo anymore where part of my heart was waiting on him to come back to me.

“Let me go,” I whispered trying to hold back my tears. I would not show them to him.

He started talking to my back in a soft conversational tone never removing his hand from the door. “For over a thousand years I’ve walked in the darkness. The nature of vampires requires that I be brutal and heartless. Emotions, whether good or bad, hate or love, if shown, are weaknesses. In order to survive, I have had to be as cold as stone. It took over a century for my Maker to insure I was frozen inside.” I felt him lean closer to my ear, and his voice became very soft. “And then you walk into my bar and become my own personal sun. With each encounter I felt the ice melting just a little more, and I’ve tried to hate you for it because each layer that melts makes me more vulnerable to the final death.” He sighed and I felt his breath move my hair around my ear. “But I can’t hate you. Instead, I find myself addicted to your warmth.”

He rested his head on my shoulder lightly as if in defeat, and my heart was hammering in my chest. What did this mean? Should I speak? Is this his way of saying goodbye?

“I need you to leave because you wake things up in me that need to stay locked away. I need you to leave because your existence in my life endangers you as much as it does me.” I heard him sigh again, lifting his head off my shoulder, and he removed his hand from the door. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore and they flowed down my cheeks. So, this was his goodbye.

As I reached for the doorknob, he gently grasped my wrist and turned me around to face him. I don’t look at him because I can’t stand to see the pity or rejection that I know I’ll see there. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to look at him, he used a single finger to raise my chin.

“I know I need you to leave for all these reasons and so many more, but I fear it’s too late for me, my little sun. If I never knew your warmth, then walking away from it would be simple, but now that I know what I’d be missing,” he paused as he gently stroked a thumb over my check to remove the tears, “I don’t think there’s any going back for me.”

We stared at each other for what seemed like forever, but I still wasn’t sure I understood the implications of what he was saying, so I asked.

“What are you saying?” I said it so softly that only a vampire would have been able to hear it.

For a very brief moment a small sad smile passed over Eric’s face before he answered. “Do you really know what you are asking me for? Are you willing to be the light to my darkness? Are you warm enough to fight the cold that’s frozen me for a thousand years? Can you bring back a heart that’s long been dead? If life is about love, then can you bring me to life?”

I couldn’t stop the small smile that now crossed my lips. I knew he expected me to run at this moment at the challenge in his words. He thought he was a lost cause and was trying to get me to see him as such. I suddenly understood that this was the reason for his sullenness and sulking around me. He didn’t think it was fair to me because he didn’t think it was possible for him to love me.

I took a step towards him and put one of my hands over his hand that was still on my cheek. I turned my head slightly to kiss the palm, and I could see a glimmer of surprise pass through his eyes before he hid it away again. I was on a roll with surprising the Viking tonight.

“I’ve already done those things.” His eyebrows disappeared into his hairline but I kept talking as I moved to wrap both arms around his waist. “My only problem is getting you to understand it.”

I knew I had confused him, and I knew that he would disagree if I let him but I had also learned what I needed to know and the rest would come in time. We would figure out Quinn’s plan, worry about the summit, and learn about the blood bond later. Right now all I cared about was the fact that he did care for me or he wouldn’t have stopped me from leaving, and he definitely wouldn’t have shown any vulnerability like he had in the past few seconds. So, as he started to speak, I covered his wonderful lips with a single finger.

“No more from you.” I laughed softly at his expression. “I only need you to answer one question honestly. Will you do that for me?”

He slowly nodded his head in acknowledgment.

“If I’m yours, will you be mine?” He looked surprised and confused so I explained. “If we’re together, will you have sex with anyone else?” I’m sure he sensed my fear. If he couldn’t be monogamous then I couldn’t be with him, and I realized now that I’d acknowledged my feelings for him that I really did need him to be mine.

He reached up slowly and took my finger away from his mouth and slowly kissed the palm of my hand – thus returning my earlier gesture.

Then he looked me in the eyes as he replied. “No I will not. If you are mine, then I am yours.”

I intertwined my fingers into his and took the final step forward that left no space between us physically or figuratively. Then I looked up at him and whispered the words I knew he’d been longing to hear for over a year.

“Then take me to bed, lover.”

 

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6 responses

  1. Black Dead Orchids

    Oh, wow! I like the way your head works. This is how the book should have went… in a perfect world.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:43 AM

  2. QtCurls

    ok this is sooooo good!!! i actually thought i was going to cry and then the ending of this chapter just made my heart want to burst!! geat first chapter!!! xoxo

    August 12, 2011 at 7:23 AM

  3. wow this is great so far i wish your name was c,harris and this was how the books went! im happy that you beta for ericizmine and found your stories!

    November 6, 2011 at 9:51 PM

  4. Tiffany

    Holy crap I’ve never been more happy!

    August 4, 2013 at 3:16 AM

  5. yaffom

    This is the way the books should have been written. This was simply wonderful. Great chapter.

    November 3, 2014 at 3:16 AM

  6. valady1

    treating myself to a re-read of my favorite stories this summer. And this story, and this chapter are at the top of the list..You write them beautifully.

    August 18, 2018 at 7:27 AM

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