After taking an exit off the interstate about halfway between Shreveport and Bon Temps, Eric turned onto a well-hidden, paved driveway. He drove through the trees that rose on either side of the lane until we reached a clearing where a small, charming cabin stood secluded in the woods.
“It’s beautiful.” I whispered. It was the first words either of us had said since we left the parking lot at Fangtasia.
“It’s one of my safe houses.” Eric replied as he parked the car in the garage. “Give me your cell phone.”
I wrinkled my eyebrows in confusion but I handed the phone to him without question. I was curious to see what he was up to.
Eric flipped open the phone, hit the power button to turn it off, and stuck it in the glove compartment of his car along with his own phone.
I opened my mouth to question him but he held a finger to his mouth to indicate I should remain silent.
Were we participating in espionage and someone forgot to give me the memo?
“Come.” He ordered as he stepped out of the car.
I wanted to lecture him about talking to me like a dog again, but he was already stepping out of the garage and into the night air before I had even opened my car door.
As soon as I had stepped out of the garage, Eric pressed a button on the wall by the door and it started to close. The next thing I knew, I was swept up in his arms and we were flying.
“AAAHHHH!” I yelped in surprise.
“Don’t worry, Lover.” He whispered in my ear. “I have you.”
“Damn it, Eric.” I slapped his chest. “Can you warn me before you do that?”
“Language.” He chastised as he smiled teasingly at me. “I thought you were a Southern Belle.”
“Only when the situation calls for it.” I said under my breath.
Of course, he heard. And he laughed.
“Stop being difficult and enjoy the flight.”
I gave in because I was curious about flying so I took a look around.
The sky was clear and the temperature was probably about eighty degrees but it was not very humid for a Louisiana night. The stars were glowing brightly, there were very few clouds, and our flight through the sky created a nice breeze that caressed my skin.
“It’s lovely tonight.” I sighed and then looked at Eric. “Do you still enjoy flying after so many centuries?”
At first, he looked surprised I’d asked the question, but then he seemed to consider it.
“Most nights it’s just something I do to accomplish a goal and travel. Like driving a car, I suppose. However, at times I take to the skies to clear my mind or find some peace.” He paused for a moment before adding, “So, yes, I still enjoy it.”
We fell into a comfortable silence as I continued to watch the trees and homes pass by below us. Eventually, I found it all to be relaxing.
About fifteen minutes into the flight, Eric started descending and finally landed us in the middle of a small clearing with woods on three sides of it and a small pond on the fourth side. From what I could tell, we had traveled about halfway back towards Shreveport.
“Where are we?” I asked as he placed my feet on the ground. It appeared as if we were in the middle of nowhere.
There were tall trees and thick underbrush all around the clearing so it didn’t appear as if there were any roads or hiking paths leading to our location. Honestly, it didn’t look like anyone had ever been here.
Eric didn’t answer my question. Instead, he asked a question of his own. “Can you sense anyone around us, Sookie?”
My scan of the area for other brains was automatic, as was the shaking of my head in response. Before I could ask any more questions, Eric nodded and took my hand as he walked me over to the wall of trees directly opposite the pond. When we were standing in front of a large tree that looked just like all the others, Eric let go of my hand and hovered about five feet off the ground. From my vantage point, it looked like he put his hand inside a hole on the side of the tree.
My attention, however, was drawn away from him when I heard what sounded like something mechanical working somewhere to the left of where I was standing. I jumped and was about to step away from the area the sound was coming from when Eric took my hand again.
“Come on.” He said as he guided me towards what now appeared to be a giant hole in the ground. When I looked at where we were headed, it looked as if a five foot by four foot area of the forest floor had suddenly opened at Eric’s command. It looked dark and terrifying.
I dug my heels into the ground.
“What is that?” I know my voice had to be conveying some amount of hysteria.
Eric stopped in front of me and placed his hands on my shoulders. “It’s a stairway, Sookie.”
For some reason, that calmed me a little.
“What’s down there?” I asked in a slightly more confident voice.
“I’ll explain once we’re inside.” Eric replied as he started leading me to the hole again. “I don’t want to stay exposed up here any longer than we have to.”
That sounded ominous.
I pulled on his hand to get his attention as we reached the top of the ‘stairway.’
When he looked at me impatiently, I snapped at him. “Don’t look at me like that! You might have perfect night vision but I don’t. I thought the plan was to turn me, not to have me break my neck fallin’ down this god forsaken . . . ”
I guess he was tired of my tirade or agreed with my reasoning because he swept me up Rhett Butler style and carried me down into the earth.
“It’s dark.” I whispered shakily as I tightened my arms around Eric’s neck when the metallic sound started again and something closed over the hole we’d entered through. I could no longer see anything other than the slight glow coming off of his skin.
The darkness became disorienting but after a couple of moments I could feel that we had stopped descending and were on somewhat even ground. Then, I was placed on my feet and Eric’s arms withdrew from me.
“Eric?” I questioned in a higher pitch than I intended. I didn’t like standing in a pitch-black room without something or someone to hold on to.
The cloak and dagger stuff was really starting to cause me some serious anxiety.
“Just stand still.” I jumped when he spoke even though I expected a response.
Before I could question him, Eric had lit a candle and was using it to light several other candles in the room.
As the light spread throughout the small space, I took stock of my surroundings.
The room was not very big and resembled a large, unfinished basement without the plumbing, ventilation, and wiring you would expect in a modern cellar. There was only one doorway and it led to the stairway we had just come down. A full sized bed was pushed into one corner, a box of true blood sat on top of a dresser, and a nightstand was beside the bed with several candles on it.
That was it.
There was nothing else in the room.
When I finished looking around, I turned to see Eric waiting on my reaction. I took a page out of his book and just raised an eyebrow at him.
“This is my safe haven.”
“A vampire must always be prepared for the worst.” Eric explained as he motioned for me to sit on the bed and sat down beside me.
“Even though I am extremely careful about who knows of my safe houses, and I ensure none of them can be traced back to me on paper, there is always the possibility that someone could track me through superior technology. Either by my phone signal, a tracker on my car, or somehow figuring out my aliases and locating a paper trail like an electricity bill. The technological advances humans have made make it impossible to completely conceal yourself if you use their inventions.”
He was silent for a moment to let me digest what he was telling me. His words explained why we flew here and why he left our cell phones behind. He was making sure we couldn’t be tracked.
“So, this place is completely untraceable?” I asked. “No electricity, no phones, no water lines, no roads, no visible structure.”
“Correct.” He nodded approvingly – happy I had caught on. “I had it built when I first came to Shreveport decades before the revelation. No one knows about it.”
Then why was he showing me? That was the question going through my mind but then I figured he meant no one but his children.
“Not even Pam.” He added as if reading my mind.
“Why not?” I asked. “And why show me?”
“I trust Pam’s loyalty implicitly but one can never tell the future. I have taught Pam this as well and I’m certain she has a place like this for herself of which I have no knowledge.”
“Oh.” For some reason, it made it make more sense when he said she would have a place Eric didn’t know about as well.
“As for why I’m showing you?” Eric said in a tone that conveyed how serious his words were going to be. “You will be my bonded child and you need to start understanding what that means.”
I swallowed nervously.
“Your life depends on my well-being completely. We’ve already discussed that.”
I nodded in agreement even though I found the whole thing extremely unfair.
“While my existence is not literally dependent on yours, our bond will strengthen the longer we are tied together until it would be almost impossible for me to continue to survive if you met your final death.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. As unfair as it was for my life to be dependent on his existence, it was even worse if it worked the other way around. I was a trouble magnet. I was young. He was a thousand years old and I would be his weakness.
“Eric,” I started, “Are you . . ?”
Before I could finish asking him if he was sure about all of this, he interrupted me like he always does.
“We’re not having that discussion again.” He said sternly. “My point is our continued survival will be dependent on the other. Therefore, we must learn to trust each other.”
“I understand.” I replied quickly.
Eric took a deep breath before sighing, “No. You don’t.”
My shoulders sagged because he was right. I still didn’t trust him completely and I didn’t really know how to do so. It felt like everyone in my life had betrayed me in some way. My parents were afraid of me and didn’t protect me like they should. Jason was absentee at times. Sam lied to me for years by not telling me he was a shifter. Even my Gran, who had been my rock, had lied to me about my grandfather. I knew she had a good reason, but that didn’t change the fact that she lied.
And I wasn’t even going to think about Bill.
“I’m not sure I know how to trust anyone completely.” I admitted.
One side of Eric’s mouth curved upward wryly. “I’ve only ever trusted my Maker completely.”
“Not Pam?” I was surprised. They seemed so close.
“I trust Pam.” He said earnestly. “But I said completely. I trust her loyalty completely but not always her decisions. She’s still young.”
“I’m even younger.” I pointed out.
“Yes.” Eric nodded in agreement as if this was part of the point he was trying to get across. “That’s why the first kind of trust I need from you is trust in my decisions.”
We stared at each other in silence for an immeasurable amount of time before I spoke. “I know what you are asking, Eric, and I understand why I should, but it doesn’t change the last two and a half decades of my life. My trust always seems misplaced. I don’t know how to make myself go from considering you a threat to my freedom three nights ago to trusting everything you say from this night forward.”
“I know.” Eric replied evenly. “That’s why I took the first step by bringing you here.”
Eric stood up from the bed and kicked his shoes off and, without saying another word, he moved to sit in the middle of the bed with his back against the headboard and his legs apart.
I knew this position.
It was time for the third exchange.
“Now?” I squeaked.
Damn it. What was with me acting like a wilted flower tonight? I was a Southern Woman. We were Steel Magnolias.
“Yes. I think its fitting.” He said with his hand held out for me. “This is the one place that no one else besides us will ever know about.”
As I took my shoes off – very slowly – I stalled and tried to bring back some of my confidence at the same time.
“You know, I don’t really know how to get here.” I teased lightly. “So, technically, it doesn’t count.”
His wry grin was back as if he expected this. “Nice try, but once we’re bonded you’ll always be able to track me and follow me here.”
“Oh.” I said intelligently as I froze with one high heel in my hand.
“Yes. Oh.” I could hear the humor in his voice. “Now, come here.”
I looked up from placing my shoe back on the floor to see Eric holding his hand out for me again.
It was so freakin’ symbolic.
Eric was offering himself to me, and not in a sexual way.
Not that I was dumb enough to think he wouldn’t jump at the chance to have sex with me if I was so inclined, but it wasn’t his intent right now. There was nothing romantic about the setting even with the candlelight.
Our two previous blood exchanges had both been very passionate and Eric could have easily taken advantage of the situation for the third blood exchange by setting up a highly erotic environment that made it hard for me to say no. Instead, he had brought me to a dank, dark hole in the ground in order to start teaching me about my new life and to begin building a foundation for trust.
His enigma continued to grow.
As I continued to stare at his outstretched hand, I found myself feeling a little more warmth towards Eric. He was trying to help me, to comfort me, to teach me, and to gain my trust.
I surprisingly found myself wanting to give it to him but still not knowing how.
I started by taking his hand and letting him guide me to sit with my back against his chest.
“What will it feel like?” I asked softly before I could stop myself.
“I don’t really know.” He must have felt my surprise because he continued. “As I’ve said, I’ve never been bonded and I certainly wouldn’t know what it would feel like for the human.”
“I imagine it will take some time for you to figure out whose emotions are whose.” He said thoughtfully and I felt him playing with a small section of my hair with his right hand as his left arm rested around my waist. “However, it might be easier for you since you are used to sorting through thoughts.”
“That’s true, I guess.” I replied easily and we both lapsed into a comfortable silence.
I found myself focusing on how relaxed I felt with Eric in this dungeon. With his body resting behind me, his arm around me, and his fingers playing with my hair, I felt safe and comfortable.
I don’t really know when it happened but, if this cellar was Eric’s safe haven, then he had somehow started to become mine. He was protecting me from the Queen and other vampires, he spared Lafayette and Jason, he’d comforted me, and he’d been trying to be truthful with me. He was even going to punish his other child for bruising my neck.
Did I really even know him?
Had I even really tried?
It hit me then that this was what he meant when he said we were going to spend some time getting to know each other. He might have been making lewd comments, but he meant what he said. He wanted to understand me and gain my trust.
I found myself wanting to show him I was willing to try trusting him but not knowing exactly how.
As I felt him start to raise his wrist silently to his mouth in order to start the final exchange, I grabbed his arm to stop him.
I knew how to show him I was ready to start opening up to him.
I just hoped I could get through it.
Before he could ask me why I stopped him and before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “I don’t remember how young I was when it started.”
“What?” I could hear the total confusion in his voice.
“My Uncle Bartlett.” My voice cracked and his arm tightened around my waist. “I don’t remember how young I was.”
I let the statement linger in the air and I could almost feel him holding himself back from asking anything. He didn’t want to run the risk of me changing my mind about trusting him with such a dark part of my history.
I looked down at my hands while I fiddled with my nails as I rushed through as much as I could handle to share.
“I don’t think I knew it was wrong when it started but I told my Mom and Dad before they died and it had been going on for a while before then. They were killed when I was eight so I’d guess it started when I was five or six.”
I heard him growl softly but I just kept rambling or I would never finish the story.
“My Mom always thought I lied about hearing thoughts in order to get attention so she punished me for telling horrible lies about my uncle.” A tear fell down my cheek against my wishes. “My Daddy didn’t seem to know what to say, but he died a week later. So, I don’t really know if he believed me.”
Eric started slowly rubbing my arms in comfort.
“The worst part honestly was hearing his thoughts about it all because I couldn’t shield back then.” My breath shuddered a little. “A couple months after my parents died, I told my Gran. I heard him thinking about . . . um . . .” I whispered “making me a woman.”
His grip on my arms tightened painfully and I yelped. He returned back to his soft stroking of my arms.
“She ran him off with a shotgun and I never saw him again until Gran’s funeral. Jason doesn’t know and he invited him.” I hung my head and whispered the last part. “I told Bill about him that night. I’m sure he killed him.”
“If he hadn’t, I would have.” Eric’s voice was stone cold.
Was it wrong that his statement made my heart warm?
“I know.” I sighed and closed my eyes allowing myself to relax back into Eric and accept his comfort.
Somehow sharing the darkest part of my past with Eric made my heart feel lighter.
I don’t know how much time passed while he comforted me before he spoke softly in my ear. “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”
“I know.” He answered.
After a few more moments, I decided I needed to finish the story with my altercation with Pam.
“This was the demon from my past that caused me to insult you unintentionally with Pam.”
I expected him to flinch or ask what I meant.
I did not expect what he said.
I sat up and turned around on the bed to look at him questioningly.
“I’ve been around for a long time.” He said sadly. “I can put two and two together. Your reaction in my office to the news about that bastard helped me put it together.”
I thought about it for a second and realized it probably didn’t take him much to come to the right conclusion even if he didn’t know the details.
I dropped my chin some because I was ashamed that my mind had tried to group him in the same company as my pedophile uncle.
Eric wasn’t having that. He placed a single finger under my chin in order to get my gaze to meet his.
“I’m not offended, Sookie.” He said kindly. “I can imagine how terrifying it must be for you to know someone will have control over you after all you’ve been through.”
My tear ducts were NOT cooperating with my decision not to cry anymore.
Eric wiped the tears away and placed his large, cool hands on each of my cheeks as he held my gaze.
“I will never force you to do anything sexual and I will protect you from that kind of abuse with everything I have. If anyone ever touches you against your will, I will torture whoever it is until they beg for death. I care not about their position or age. On this, you have my word.” His eyes held mine to convey their sincerity and I felt something unknot in my stomach.
My brain had already told me that he wouldn’t force himself on me, but the little girl still hidden away inside needed to hear those words from his lips and see the truth in his eyes.
Somehow, he had known that.
I had the undeniable urge to kiss him.
So I did.
It wasn’t wanton or sexual. It was soft, comfortable, and safe. It was a thank you and a peace offering.
When I softly kissed his lips once more and pulled away, I felt inexplicably shy.
“Don’t worry about it, Lover.” He teased. “I am irresistible after all.”
I just couldn’t help it and he seemed to enjoy it too. We had been involved in serious, life altering discussions for what seemed like forever and we both needed the break in tension.
Finally, we calmed down and he brought us back on task.
“Unfortunately, we need to wrap things up here so we can continue our night.”
“You mean we are not spending it in the Pit?” I teased.
“The Pit? I like it.” He laughed. “But no, you need to eat and I still have a surprise waiting for you.”
“Is it better than this?” I gestured to the surrounding room. “Because I don’t know how you can top it.”
His smile was wide and genuine. I found myself thinking how handsome he was when he looked happy. “I will make it my mission tonight to insure I impress you even further than I did by showing you my haven.”
We both laughed and then his face got serious again.
I knew it was time for the exchange and he placed his hands on my hips to help me turn back around and resume my spot leaning on his chest.
I stopped him from moving me and instead crawled up to straddle his lap.
The look on his face was priceless and I couldn’t help but grin.
“It’s more comfortable this way.” I said evenly. “Besides, I need to get used to the neck, right?”
“Yes.” Eric replied in a tone even enough to match mine. “It hurts humans more if you bite their wrists.”
I didn’t want to let myself get too drawn into thinking about feeding again so I moved past it.
“Do you have a knife or something or do I have to bite?” I wrinkled my nose a little with the word bite and he thought that was funny.
“No, lover. You can wait until you have your fangs to bite.” He winked at me and pulled a small pocketknife out of the drawer in the nightstand beside the bed.
“When I make the cut, drink until it closes.” He explained and I nodded.
Without any ceremony, Eric cut into the right side of his neck and I latched on quickly. The moment his blood touched my tongue I moaned and I felt his already erect manhood stir beneath his jeans.
Within seconds of my first draw of his blood, he had kissed, licked, and bit my neck.
I found myself thinking for a moment that I shouldn’t enjoy this as much as I was since I was still human but then I batted the thought away. What did it matter? I only had one more day as a human and I wasn’t even completely human anyway.
I was brought back into the moment when I felt Eric’s right hand snake into my hair to hold me tighter against his neck and his left hand tighten on my hip. With his blood in my mouth and his fangs in my neck, I couldn’t resist the movement of my hips against his groin as my body danced against his in rhythm with the swallows I was taking of his blood.
His body responded easily to mine and I quickly found my hands entwined in his hair holding his mouth to my neck. Our hips and mouths had found a perfect synchronization of movement and I was climbing towards the most beautiful orgasm I’d ever known when the wound in his neck unexpectedly closed up.
Well, I couldn’t have that.
So, I bit him.
Eric’s mouth left my neck for a moment as he roared his release and I knew I had surprised him. Then I quickly found myself underneath his body as he returned to heal my neck while he skillfully moved his still clothed erection against my center. I was admittedly trying to hold off my peak because the sensations I was feeling were otherworldly.
As if Eric knew what I was doing, he pulled my face away from his neck and laid the mother of all kisses on me while he pushed eagerly against my center. I pulled my mouth away from him desperately to gasp in some air in order to scream out my release.
As soon as I stopped yelling, Eric captured my lips again. At first, our kissing was still urgent and pressing, but eventually we reached a soft and sweet rhythm until he slowly pulled away and laid his head on my chest.
We continued to lay in silence as my heartbeat and breathing started to return to normal and I took stock of how I felt.
I felt happy, content, and safe.
After searching and thinking for a moment, I realized that ‘safe’ was the only emotion that was coming completely from me.
Eric was happy and content as well.
I couldn’t help but smile.