The first thing I was aware of were the cool fingers softly caressing my cheek and sweeping my hair behind my ear. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know that it was Eric. As much as I hated to admit it, I was finding this gesture of his, which had become quite commonplace in the past two nights, to be comforting.
I slowly opened my eyes to find that I was lying on the bed in my room at Eric’s – well, our – home. He was sitting on the bed beside me studying my face.
“Hey,” I whispered.
“Welcome back.” He answered with a half-smile.
“Back?” I was confused. Where had I been?
“You passed out.” I looked at his disbelievingly. “It was a long night for you Sookie. Emotionally and physically.” He stroked my jaw and I flinched back from the pain. I’d forgot about Amy’s right hook.
“I’ve never passed out before.” I grumbled. “I don’t like it.”
“Well, we’ll do our best to keep the next two days relaxing so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.” He smiled and had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Unless you plan on becoming the first vampire to faint.”
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at him as I pushed myself up into a seated position and leaned on the headboard. It was bad enough that I’d gotten cut and punched, and then fainted; I wasn’t going to lie around like an invalid.
“How’s your jaw?” He asked while holding my chin up to inspect the damage.
“Fine.” I answered defiantly, but the effect was ruined as he lightly pushed on the side of my face and I jerked away from the pain again.
“Always so stubborn.” He chuckled slightly under his breath as he moved to lean back against the headboard beside me.
“Well, it took twenty-four years of practice to perfect my stubborn streak so I’m glad you appreciate it.”
“Oh, I’m sure it will provide equal parts entertainment and annoyance throughout the centuries.”
“I’ll do what I can.” I responded with annoyance.
We fell into a comfortable silence for a couple of minutes. I actually thought it was odd that I wasn’t threatened by his presence in my bedroom and I didn’t feel awkward with the silence between us. I couldn’t help but think that part of my newfound comfort with Eric was due to Pam’s assurances earlier in the night that he would never force himself on me. Also, I was starting to realize that a lot of my thoughts about Eric had been clouded by Bill’s opinion and the persona Eric marketed at his bar. Not that I thought Eric was anything close to an angel, but I really needed to forget about Bill’s words and judge Eric based on his actions. So far, he’d really been stern and bossy with me. He could really piss me off, but it seemed that he was always acting that way to protect me in someway. Then there was the way he held me after my breakdown at Fangtasia. Anyone who saw the Sherriff on his throne would never imagine he could be the type to comfort a crying woman. He was an enigma (Thank you Word of the Day Calendar).
In reality, we had really been through a lot together in the past two nights, and it was really strange when I compared us sitting here now with how I saw him just three nights ago. It actually made me let out an involuntary chuckle before I had a chance to stifle it.
“What’s funny?” He asked as he leaned forward slightly to look at me with a raised eyebrow.
“If someone had told me three nights ago that I’d soon be sitting in a bed next to you and completely at ease, I would have told them they’d lost their mind.” I explained with a smile.
Eric relaxed again with his back against the headboard. “Not me,” he said with a confident tone, “I knew I’d get you in bed with me eventually.”
The even, confident tone along with his words sent me over the edge and I doubled over with laughter. I don’t know why I thought it was so funny. Perhaps the past forty-eight hours had taken its toll and I just needed the release. Eric didn’t say anything and I didn’t even turn to look at him as I lost my self in my laughter.
After a minute or two, I controlled myself enough to reply through my continued giggling. “I hate to bust your bubble Mr. Northman but technically I’m not ‘in’ bed with you since we’re on top of the covers.”
Before I knew what was happening, Eric was on his back and I was lying on top of his chest. He was grinning up at me, “Oh Lover, if you ever want to change positions, you have only to ask.”
I had gasped at the sudden movement, but with his words I broke out with another round of laughter. I should have given him hell for calling me Lover and I should have put some room between his body and mine, but I wasn’t thinking about anything serious for the first time in days and I was enjoying it. Plus, I happened to notice that his chest was vibrating a little with his own silent laughter. It made me realize that I couldn’t remember ever hearing Eric really laugh.
By the end of my giggle fit, I had actually ended up with my forehead on Eric’s chest and tears running down my eyes. It felt good to cry from laughter instead of heartache.
Just like that, my thoughts brought the heartache back and I came back down to earth. Fairies, lost friends, punishments, and death. All of it hit me like a slap in the face as it brought me back to reality. I slid off of Eric with a sigh and lied down beside him on the bed. He kept his arm behind me so that my neck was resting on it as I stared up at the ceiling.
“I killed her.” I said softly.
“She would have killed you and your brother. Didn’t you say before that you would kill to protect yourself and those you love?” From his conversational tone, you would think we were talking about the weather. That just made me angry. Then I also realized that he didn’t disagree when I said I’d killed her.
“In the woods, you said I didn’t kill her.” I accused while leaning up on my left elbow to look down at him. “You said she fell on a broken tree and that was what killed her.”
“What do you want me to do, Sookie?” He sighed while looking me in the eyes with a stern expression. “Do you want me to convince you that it wasn’t your fault? Do you want me to tell you that you didn’t know what you were doing and there was no way for you to predict that she would fall on a limb, pierce her chest, and die almost instantly? Is that what you are hoping to hear?”
Eric moved so that he was now resting on his right arm and lying on his side so that he was facing me. “I could tell you all those things and they would be true, but would it really make a difference?” He brushed a piece of hair behind my ear again and I found that act of softness combined with his stern voice unsettling. “If the fall hadn’t killed her and she would have gotten back up, wouldn’t you have continued to fight her and killed her if you had to do so in order to protect yourself and your brother?”
I looked away from him and stared at my closet door that was visible over his shoulder. I didn’t want to answer his question and I was sure he would read the answer in my eyes if I let him. Of course, Eric wasn’t one to be avoided.
“Look at me, Sookie.” He waited until I reluctantly complied before he continued his lecture. “I’m not going to coddle you now and say I’m sorry she’s dead because I’m not. The truth is she was going to die one way or another, no matter how you might have judged me after the fact. She was the one that had caused the most damage and was truly dangerous to our kind. I will say I’m sorry that you find this distressing, but this is a part of our existence that you will have to accept. Survival for a vampire often times comes down to kill or be killed.”
“So you want me to be okay with being a murderer?” I spat at him.
“What would happen if a human went to their authorities and told them that they shot an intruder after the intruder tried to shoot and kill them? You were protecting yourself, Sookie. Even humans would acknowledge that and would not punish you.” He growled with me.
I knew he was right. I had even known it when I was yelling in the woods earlier tonight, but it was just hard to know that I had ended someone’s life. I also certainly didn’t want to acknowledge Eric’s words and their implication for my future as a vampire.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” I grumbled as I flopped back on the bed.
Eric studied me for a minute before lying back down beside me as we resumed our positions from earlier. After a couple of minutes, I found myself wondering how long I’d been unconscious.
“What time is it anyway?”
“Almost 5:00.” Wow. I had been out for a while. “I’ve left a list of questions in the kitchen for you to ask Fintan when he visits this afternoon. I want you to make sure you ask each one and get as much detail as possible. I especially want you to talk about that little light of yours. Find out if he thinks it will stick around after your change and if he knows how you can control it.”
“Okay.” I sighed. I didn’t want to think about the light because it made me think about Amy.
“Also, don’t forget that Alcide will be coming to the door at Noon so that you can try to read him.” I nodded in acknowledgment. “We have to go by Fangtasia to meet with the lawyer and sign some papers after I rise but then I’m taking you out for the evening.”
“Out?” I replied and I’m sure my voice revealed my shock.
“Yes. Didn’t I tell you that we’d have time tomorrow to get to know each other?” He turned his head to grin wickedly at me. “I thought you might like a nice dinner and a change of scenery. Plus there’s a bit of a surprise for you at the end of the night.”
“I don’t know if I can handle anymore surprises.” I groaned.
“Oh, I’ll be sure to make it a good surprise.” He smirked at me.
“I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“That’s wonderful. Your trust in me grows every moment.” Eric replied smugly as he leaned up on his elbow to look down at me again.
“Do you ever let anyone else get the last word?” I don’t know why I asked. I already knew the answer.
“Nope.” That earned me an even bigger smirk.
“Then my first goal in my undead life will be to get the last word with you.”
“Good luck.” Eric replied and we both chuckled a little before he reached back out to touch my jaw again.
“The bruising is getting worse.” He observed. “We will exchange blood now and it should be completely healed by the time you wake up.”
I immediately blushed as I remembered the last exchange. Of course, my embarrassment earned me another wicked smile from Eric. I was really providing him with plenty of entertainment tonight, but I had to admit the lighthearted banter was nice after all the drama.
Apparently Eric decided to get things started before I had a chance to freak out too much, because the next thing I knew we were face to face with me straddling his lap and his back against the headboard. My face felt like it was on fire and I’m certain that it was redder than the fresh blood that was just under the surface of my cheeks. I’d only ever been truly intimate with Bill and being this close to Eric made me very nervous. I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that he was a living Adonis that exuded sex appeal but I just wasn’t raised to think about sex as causally as Eric did.
He used the few seconds I took to collect myself to start talking so that I didn’t have a chance to yell at him for placing us in this compromising position.
“You know, I originally thought it would be fun to see how quickly I could corrupt you.” I started to blurt out something nasty to show my indignation, but he covered my lips with his thumb before I could respond. Then he continued speaking in a low, and I’ll admit it, very sexy tone.
“However, I’m finding your innocence to be quite refreshing, incredibly entertaining, and surprisingly sexy.” Eric had started tracing my lips with his thumb as he spoke and I could not suppress the shiver that ran through my body. I could tell his lust was rising as well since I could feel the evidence of his arousal from my position on his lap.
His cool hand moved to stroke my blazing cheek but I found myself unable to pull away from his touch or his gaze. There was just something about the mixture of sexuality, danger, gentleness, strength, authority, and mystery that he had shown me in the past two days that made it hard for me to turn away from him. He gently cupped my cheek as he continued, “I must also admit that I think I’ll miss the way I can make you blush so easily and I really wish we had a little longer before your change.” He whispered as he leaned forward to kiss my neck. “Your blood is so unique.”
I was completely lost in the moment without any rational thought. I expected to feel his cool lips against my neck but instead his whole body stiffened and he pulled back to look at me. His look had completely changed and he looked angry. I couldn’t fathom what I had done to make him mad.
“Did Amy choke you?” He demanded.
“Huh?” I know it wasn’t a very intelligent reply but I couldn’t figure out how we got pulled from where we were headed and back on the topic of Amy. Maybe I should take that as a sign and slow down this little session that had started to go down a very slippery slope.
“Did she choke you?” He repeated.
“Uh. No.” I was still confused and I tried to crawl back off his lap to regain my composure. Of course, Eric didn’t let me move an inch.
“Then who did?” He insisted.
“What are you talking about Eric?” I needed to know where this was coming from.
“Your neck is bruised. I can see the outline of fingers. Did one of your so-called friends do this?” He glared at me. “Tell me who hurt you.”
My mind went back to Pam holding me against the van. Shit. I didn’t want to tell him about that conversation. While I was thinking, I must have let something pass across my face because before I could figure out what to say, Eric was speaking again. He was always doing that. I just couldn’t catch a break with him.
“I will not allow you to protect someone who harms you.” He hissed. “You are mine. No one will harm you without being punished.”
“I’m not property Eric.” Now, I was pissed. I’d heard enough of this crap with Bill and I wasn’t dealing with it again. “I’m my own person not something you own.”
“Don’t start lecturing me with your crazy human ideas about independence or the latest fashion in feminism.” He groaned impatiently. “It’s a word Sookie. You may not use it in exactly the same way but it’s not that different from when you might refer to your friends or your family or your lover. Vampires are just more possessive, definite, and protective in their relationships. Whether you like it or not, you are mine. Just as I will be your Maker and Pam will be your sister.”
I really needed to regain control over my face because after a lifetime of controlling my facial features, I was giving too much away tonight. As soon as Eric said Pam’s name, my mind was back to working out how I could hide my argument with her from Eric. He was too fast though and he caught on to my reaction when he said her name.
“Pam.” He growled.
“What?” I replied with what I’m sure was too much innocence.
“Don’t play dumb.” He ordered. “When I felt Pam’s anger and your fear tonight, I called and she said you had a sisterly spat. She did this to you.”
There wasn’t a question in his tone. He knew the answer already and there was nothing I could do to hide it now.
“It was my fault.” I replied softly looking away. “I don’t want her punished.”
“What you want doesn’t matter. She disobeyed and did so knowing she would be punished. I remember she even said it was worth it on the phone.” He replied coolly before grabbing my chin to pull it back where I had to look at him again. “Her punishment will be decided later. What I want to know is what caused this ‘spat’ that made Pam harm you. She is always very in control of her emotions. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so many emotions that strongly from her.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Eric.” I resisted but I knew it was useless.
“That’s not a choice for you right now.” He responded. “Tell me.”
Well, that defiance earned me a menacing growl. “Don’t make me punish you as well.”
“Argh! What is it with you and punishments?” I shrieked with my frustration.
“Do not change the subject. Tell me.”
I decided I wasn’t going to be able to avoid this subject with him so I would try and be vague.
“I was trying to ease some of my nerves about things and I asked a few questions about vampire stuff. Without thinking through how it would sound, I asked one question that ended up being really insulting toward you, but that wasn’t my intention. I just have my own demons and I needed some reassurance. My insecurity wasn’t really about you specifically as it was my past.” I tried to explain as I rambled without any real details. “Needless to say, Pam was pissed that I insulted you, but we worked it out.”
“I see.” His face was unreadable. “And what did you ask?”
“Please. Don’t make me tell you.” I pleaded. I could feel the tightening in my throat that signaled tears trying to escape. Thinking about my disagreement with Pam earlier inevitably brought up my childhood nightmare and I really didn’t need to deal with that again tonight.
“Would you rather I ask Pam?” He challenged me.
“No.” My response was immediate and a little panicked. “No. Please don’t. It’s over. Why can’t you just drop it? Please.”
“I don’t want to distress you more tonight, but whatever this ‘demon’ is from your past is causing you to suffer a wide range of volatile emotions just by merely referencing it. Something that controls your emotions that strongly could be perceived as a weakness and used against you in the future. I can take the insult but I must understand the weakness in order to protect you.”
“Its personal, Eric” I whispered and I could feel a few tears escape my eyes.
“Sookie,” he answered softly as he placed his hands gently on both sides of my face “we will be bonded tomorrow. Very soon we will be able to keep very little from each other.”
I swallowed loudly trying to stop the tears before answering. “Just not tonight. I’ve had enough today. Please.” I knew I was begging but I really couldn’t handle any more. I had found out about creatures I never knew existed, learned I was part-fairy and part-witch, had a breakdown about feeding on humans, lost two friends, shot light from my hands, and killed someone. I was done for the day and, for once, my pride was the last thing on my mind.
Eric studied me for a minute before leaning forward and kissing the tears off my cheeks. I closed my eyes as he whispered against my skin. “Alright, älskare. Not tonight.”
I sighed with relief and relaxed into Eric’s cool hands, which were still cupping my face. I allowed myself to feel comforted by his lips against my cheeks as he kissed away the remainder of my tears. When all the tears were gone, he slowly kissed a path down the uninjured side of my jaw until his lips were lightly brushing back and forth against my lips.
I didn’t open my eyes. I simply enjoyed the gentleness of Eric’s actions as his lips caressed my face. I felt comforted and cared for in a way I hadn’t felt since Gran’s murder. Even though it had been less than a month since Gran died, it felt like a lifetime and I felt more alone every day. I was almost desperate to feel connected to someone. So, when his lips brushed against mine, I responded with equal gentleness as I slowly traced his lips with my tongue.
I felt his body react immediately to my actions, as he grew harder beneath me. Eric slowly moved both of his hands around to the back of my head and buried them in my hair as we both deepened our kiss. God, could he kiss. It was perfect. He was gentle but in control, sexual but sensual, cool to the touch but also heating my entire body.
After a few minutes of unhurried kissing, Eric slowly shifted our position so that I was lying on my back and he was on top of me. He supported himself so that I didn’t feel too much of his body weight but what I did feel made me feel safe and protected. To me, even though I couldn’t deny the sexuality of our actions, our closeness was more about comfort, safety, and trust than it was about sexual satisfaction. Not that the kiss wasn’t satisfying as of course.
In addition to enjoying each other’s mouths, our hands were also busy learning the other’s body. I felt his hand as it blazed a trail from my neck all the way down to my thigh. Once there, he slowly cupped the back of my thigh and moved my leg so that it wrapped around his waist. In turn, my hands, which had started on his hips, gradually traced the outline of the muscles of his back until both hands were lost in his blonde hair. Our movements were as unhurried as our kissing and we both avoided the most sensual and sexual places.
I don’t know how long we had been lost in our kiss before I distinctly tasted blood in my mouth. It was strange because I didn’t flinch away from the taste or even feel very surprised. Instead, it felt right and I instinctually traced my tongue along Eric’s fang and used its sharp tip to cut my tongue. Eric groaned when the taste of my blood reached him and we both started stroking and sucking each other’s tongue as we shared blood for the second time.
By the time we had both devoured every drop of blood that mingled in our mouths, I was in desperate need of air. Apparently sensing my need, Eric slowly kissed back up my jaw to my ear as he cupped the back of my neck with his hand and whispered in my ears.
“Unfortunately, I can not stop the dawn for you Lover. I must take my leave.” His low voice vibrated against my ear making my skin tingle. Then he kissed the sensitive spot right behind my ear before continuing. “But we will have plenty of time together tomorrow.” He drew a line back up my cheek by skimming it with the tip of his nose before placing a gentle kiss on my lips and pulling back to look at me. “And I believe you will need some rest before starting another day.”
I felt so relaxed and comfortable in his arms that I just nodded and, by the satisfied smirk on his face, I’m sure I had some sort of goofy grin on my face.
Eric gently moved off the bed before leaning down to kiss me on the forehead.
“Sleep well, min milda krigare.” He murmured against my skin and then turned to walk for the door.
“Eric?” I asked when he was just about to close my bedroom door behind him.
“Yes?” He answered as he peaked back inside.
“Was that Swedish?” I yawned out the words and turned over on my side.
“Yes.” I could hear the question in his voice.
“Will you teach me? It sounds pretty.”
“Yes. I think it’s beautiful language too. But of course you also hate it when you can’t understand my conversations with Pam.” I had my eyes closed but I’m sure he was grinning.
“That too.” It was work to get the words out. I was exhausted.
If he answered, I didn’t hear it. The only thing I remembered was hearing his deep, muffled laughter as he walked away.
Unexpectedly, the sound of his laughter made me feel safe and warm. Holding onto those feelings, I allowed them to override my weariness from the day and I fell into a deep sleep.
min milda krigare – My Gentle Warrior