Before I could register being moved, I was back on the couch and Eric was towering over me.
“Little girl, you need to get control of your temper.”
He hissed dangerously at me when I opened my mouth to speak again.
“I haven’t punished you yet because I am a fair Maker and I haven’t told you what your punishments would be if you disrespect me. However, know now that if you were to pull this crap in public, I would punish you in public without any warnings. So I highly suggest you learn your place.”
“My place!” I screeched.
Again, I was moving before I knew what was happening.
Except this time, I wasn’t on the couch.
I was lying on my stomach, across Eric’s lap.
I gasped as my cheeks reddened with anger and embarrassment at my vulnerable position. I started struggling to get away but Eric growled at me, “Stop now or I will spank you.”
Well, that brought me up short.
His voice was cold as ice.
He wasn’t bluffing.
My body went rigid across his lap and I didn’t fight his hold anymore. Mercifully, he wasn’t holding me in a lewd or painful way, he was just . . .
He was showing me my place.
Teaching me obedience and the consequences of losing control.
He had warned me before to control my outbursts.
I was still pissed off and humiliated though.
But I wasn’t stupid enough to shout at him about it this time.
No sooner had I understood the message, and accepted it, than I found myself sitting sideways across his lap.
“I can feel you accepting the lesson, Sookie.” He said while I immaturely looked away from him, and he began to stroke my hair comfortingly. “I know you are a prideful woman and I don’t want to take that away from you, but you cannot act like a child and stomp your feet or shout your feelings when you don’t like what you hear. It could cost us our lives.”
Instinctively my head whipped around to chastise him for comparing me to a child, but the expression on his face stopped me.
His expression wasn’t condescending or arrogant. Instead, his eyes conveyed a patience so deep and compelling that I felt like I had to try to repay him for it.
I sighed again, and closed my eyes.
And took a deep breath.
I let go of the ire I had surrounding the child comment and decided to change the subject.
I was always good at changing the subject.
With my eyes still closed, I asked my next question with as much control as possible.
“If you knew my grandfather was going to offer to take me away, then why did you let him meet with me without you there? Did you want me to go with him?”
My eyes were still closed but when he didn’t continue speaking I opened them to look at him questioningly.
Eric must have been waiting for me to make eye contact, because he continued as soon as his eyes had captured mine.
“Do you remember what I said at Bill’s trial when the Magister offered me the right to be your Maker?” He asked me.
I thought about it for a moment and it suddenly clicked.
“It was a test.” I said while shaking my head and trying to control my reaction. “You wanted me to have an out so that you could be sure I was choosing freely to be your child. You told the Magister you didn’t want a child that didn’t want you as a Maker.”
“That was part of it.”
“And the other part?” I asked.
“For you to realize that I had an out as well even though I chose not to use it.”
I’m sure my eyes conveyed my confusion as I asked, “What do you mean?”
“I could ask Fintan to take you or I could tell the Magister your Fae kin have threatened war if you were turned.” He shrugged. “There are several possible ways out of this if I wanted to use them.”
I shook my head again. I had been operating under the assumption that Eric no longer had any choice. I thought he didn’t have any recourse if he happened to change his mind after that night in the junkyard. Amazingly, however, Eric did have a choice and he still chose to keep me.
I truly didn’t understand why a thousand year old Viking would want me around forever.
“Stop doubting yourself.” Eric scolded me.
I wasn’t about to get into that discussion tonight, so I decided to change the subject.
“If you knew he was going to offer to take me away, then why did you get so angry earlier?”
“If you think about it, you will realize I was angry because you were attempting to hide it. It didn’t help that you made it worse by being disrespectful.”
“Oh.” I intelligently replied.
“Yes, oh.” He replied with his normal smirk.
We set in silence for a couple of minutes before I realized that I was still sitting on his lap. Needing an excuse to get up, I asked him where the restroom was. Of course he took the opportunity to ask me if I wanted him to join me for an initiation into the Mile High Club.
I’m sure my “when hell freezes over” glare answered that question for me, but I could tell by the grin on his face that he felt my body’s traitorous reaction.
At least the argument was over.
When I rejoined Eric on the couch, I felt more grounded and calm. He asked me to tell him more about Fintan’s visit and I told him all about my family tree, and the threat that loomed over me whilst I was still part human. By the time I had finished telling him everything my grandfather had shared with me, he had a very thoughtful look on his face.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I’m beginning to see that my plan backfired.”
Eric tucked my hair behind my ear again before explaining, “Vampires do not get involved in Fae politics so I didn’t think about the threat you would be under if you stayed human.”
He smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes, “It seems everyone is forcing you to make a decision.”
I opened my mouth to protest but I found I couldn’t find the words.
“Sookie, as much as you may not want to hear this, I think you need to accept that a normal life was never an option for you.” Eric said seriously.
“I know that Eric.” I responded glumly. “I’m the one who’s been telling everyone that for the last few days.”
“Yes.” Eric paused for a second. “You’ve been saying all the right things, but I don’t think you’ve ever really let go and accepted it. I think a part of you is still dreaming of a home with a white picket fence and children.”
“I know that was never in my future, Eric.”
“Yes, but to know something and to accept it are two very different things.”
I was surprised when Eric reached over to take my hand. “But, I’ve given you enough to think about for now. I think we are about to reach our destination.”
Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, I felt the plane descending and the pilot’s voice came over the speakers, and told us we would be landing in ten minutes.
“Do I get to know where we are now?” I asked.
“Somehow, I don’t think you will care too much about our exact location.” He answered teasingly.
“That sounds ominous.” I answered carefully.
“Not at all” He laughed. “I only meant that the where isn’t as important as the fact that we are going to be staying on the beach, on a private island.”
I gasped and jumped to straddle his lap.
I knew I was acting like a child now but I had never been to the beach. I’d never even left Louisiana. And a private island?
“Yes, really.” He laughed again before placing his arms around my hips and becoming slightly more serious.
“I thought you might like to spend today tanning and watching the sun rise and set over the ocean.”
The lump in my throat was back in an instant as I looked into Eric’s eyes.
The truth hit me then.
Eric Northman really did care about my happiness.
Even though we hadn’t talked about it, he somehow knew I loved the sun and he took me somewhere to enjoy my last day on a beach. Only someone who cared about my feelings would go to so much trouble for me. Right?
I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t find the words. So instead, I softly placed my hands on either side of his neck and leaned in to kiss him.
I think he was slightly surprised with my forwardness even though he probably felt my gratitude – and yes, affection – in the bond.
The kiss started sweet and slow, with me leading, but it quickly turned heated when Eric took the reigns.
And I didn’t stop him.
I settled into his arms and rested more fully against his chest as our tongues explored each other’s mouths. I felt his hands move down my hips to cup my lower cheeks and I moved my hands down his chest, and under his shirt, to scrape my nails across his stomach.
I immediately felt myself lifted and placed down on my back on the airplane sofa with Eric’s weight resting slightly on top of me. He kissed down my cheek and neck, and back up to whisper in my ear.
“You are such a tease.” He said softly as he nibbled on my ear. “You wait until we don’t have time to try to join the club.”
I was so excited about the beach and happy with my realization that Eric truly cared about me that I felt like teasing him.
I turned my head slightly to run my tongue up his throat to his ear. I felt him shiver in response and I whispered to him.
“Who said anything about joining a club? Maybe I just wanted to make-out with you.”
The expression on Eric’s face when he pulled back to look at me was hilarious. He was completely shocked by my actions.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“You think you are funny?” He smiled at me but there was a mischievousness in his eyes that pulled me up short.
I swallowed carefully and tried to stop grinning.
Before our playfulness could go any further, the pilot interrupted us again over the cabin speakers. I guess we had been too distracted to notice that we had landed.
“Mr. Northman, welcome to Key West. You may exit the plan momentarily. The ground crew is setting up the stairway”
“Florida! We’re in Florida!” I said excitedly as Eric helped me up off the couch.
“Yes, but this isn’t our last stop.” He answered while grabbing two carry-on bags out of the overhead compartment.
“It’s not?” I asked before I thought of another question. “Where did the bags come from?”
“Pam packed a bag for you since the trip was a surprise.” He answered. “I’ll tell you about our destination once we are alone.”
The cockpit door opened then and the pilot walked over and opened the external door for us. Immediately I could smell and feel the difference in the ocean-tinged air from the humid air of my home state.
I was bouncing on the balls of my feet.
I was that excited.
I could feel Eric’s amusement at my excitement through the bond even though he seemed stoic on the outside. I guess he didn’t want to seem like a carefree vampire in front of the pilot.
As we walked away from the plane, I was suddenly picked up bridal style, and we were flying through the air.
“Let me guess.” I laughed. “Harder to track if we fly?”
“You are learning.” Eric smirked at me. “Yes, we are flying to the island. We will be there in about ten minutes. Enjoy the flight Ms. Stackhouse.”
I snuggled closer into Eric’s arms and nuzzled his neck while I took in the scene around me.
As we flew further into the night and away from the mainland, the stars seemed brighter and the reflection of the moon on the ocean was beautiful beyond words. It was absolutely gorgeous
I took a deep breath and inhaled the salty air along with Eric’s distinctly masculine scent. The combined smells made me feel relaxed and safe. I settled deeper into Eric’s arms and closed my eyes to enjoy the moment.
When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on a couch that rested across from a large fireplace that was crackling with a warm light. As I looked around the room, I saw a couple of dark leather chairs and some matching tables. There were also a few dimly lit gas lanterns placed around the room.
“There’s no electricity on the island.”
Eric’s voice came from behind me and made me jump. He was toweling off his hair and was only wearing a pair of jogging pants. The sight of his perfect chest along with the low hanging pants that clearly exposed the V of his abdomen was too much to take in. My body was instantly heating up and I completely lost track of what I was thinking about.
“Um. . . what?” I asked.
Eric smirked at me. “There is no electricity here. That’s the reason for the lanterns and the fire.”
“I guess it would be hard to get electricity on a deserted island.” I laughed a little to try to break the sexual tension I was feeling.
What was wrong with me? Earlier I was making out with Eric on the plane and now I want to jump him.
When did everything change? More importantly, when did I stop distrusting Eric and suddenly decide I want him?
I made the decision to think about that tomorrow and cut off my internal ramblings.
“How long was I asleep?” I asked while sitting up and stretching.
As Eric came over and sat on the other end of the couch from where I was sitting, he said. “About two and a half hours, but you need the rest if you are going to stay up for the sunrise. It’s in about two and a half hours”
I shrugged. “I could always go back to sleep.”
Not that I would. I might as well enjoy the sun tomorrow.
“Not really.” Eric answered with a smile. “I’m afraid you will be having visitors for most of the morning and early afternoon.”
“What? Who?” I asked flabbergasted (Thank you word of the day calendar).
“I thought this island was a secret. Who would be visiting me?” I added on when I recovered from my shock.
“I arranged for someone to come and cook you whatever you would like tomorrow. I’m afraid they will be bringing the ‘all American breakfast’ as they called it, but they will be leaving to get whatever they need to make you lunch and dinner.”
My jaw dropped and I stuttered out the first thing that came to mind. “How will they cook here without electricity?”
Eric laughed at me. “Do you think there has been electricity since the beginning of time Ms. Stackhouse?”
I blushed at his question, but before I could stammer out a reply Eric was speaking again.
“They are going to cook on their boat.”
“Oh.” I replied.
“Also,” Eric continued. “Pam has provided you with what she calls ‘the turning gift that keeps on giving.’”
“Should I be scared?” I asked with a laugh.
“I would be.” He smiled warmly and I couldn’t help but return the look.
Eric was so easy to get along with when he was like this.
“She’s arranged for a spa to send out someone to help you get in ‘transition’ shape. Pam said you wouldn’t want split ends for eternity. She also said you owed her for not having to shave ever again.”
“Oh my gosh!” I laughed. “I do love her!”
We were quiet for a couple of moments while I thought about all the visitors I would have tomorrow morning. However, I soon realized I had questions.
“Eric, isn’t it dangerous for all those people to be here and know where we are?”
He smiled proudly at me. “I’m glad you thought of that, but Pam is taking care of all the risks.”
“I thought she stayed in Louisiana?”
“No. She left after us.” He explained. “She is glamouring the humans. They won’t be able to tell anyone where they are going or be able to remember where they were. If they think they are being followed, they won’t show up. Plus, they have no link to me or you so there’s no reason for anyone to follow them.”
“Oh. Okay. Good.”
What else could I really say except, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He answered warmly. “Would you like to go outside? I know you have more questions but I thought you might want to sit on the beach.”
I was on my feet before I could blink.
“I’d love to!”
Eric laughed at me again and offered me his hand. “I thought you would want to see the beach, so I already laid out some blankets on the sand.”
As Eric led me out of the simple home, I let out a small gasp at the sight before me.
I had imagined what a tropical island would look like before. I had read tons of romance novels that described tropical islands. I had seen pictures of islands.
But I had never imagined anything this beautiful.
We were walking on a simple sand path about fifty feet long that curved from the house to the beach. The sides of the path were lined with a few lit tiki torches. The firelight allowed me to see the beautiful flowers and palm trees stretching for as far as I could see in the darkness. There were several shades of purple, blue, red, and yellow flowers surrounding me and they looked extremely exotic.
When I turned to look at the home we had just left, I was surprised to see that it was a simple one-story building. The house was a dark, brown brick that was easily camouflaged by the surrounding foliage. I hadn’t seen the entire building yet, but by its size I was guessing there were only one or two rooms.
The house seemed to have been built with simplicity in mind.
It was a cottage from a fairytale in the middle of wonderland.
When I had finally taken in all the beauty of my surroundings, I turned to look at Eric.
He half-smiled at me. “Godric enjoys the simple beauty of this place. Everything is indigenous of the island. He says it is nearly impossible to find peace anymore because there are few places left untouched in the world. He comes here to enjoy the quiet and beauty of nature.”
“I don’t even have words to describe it all. I’ve never seen anything like it.” I whispered my admiration of our surroundings because I didn’t want to disrupt the tranquility by speaking too loudly.
Eric wrapped his arms around me and pulled my back against his chest. I found myself easily accepting his touch and I placed my hands over his on my stomach.
Eric’s chin rested on my head as he spoke, “This is only our first stop, Sookie. I will show you more exotic places than you’ve ever dreamed of, and I will again enjoy places I have long thought had lost any wonder because I will experience them anew through your eyes.”
As we both stood on Godric’s island and passed contentment between us through our new bond, I decided to finally ask one of the questions that had been burning to get out.
“Why are you so different now?” I asked. “Some times I feel like you are Jekyll and Hyde. One minute you are understanding and caring toward me, and the next you seem angry and remote. I’m having a hard time keeping my footing around you.”
Eric unwrapped himself from me but kept hold of one of my hands, as he lead me down the stone path to the blankets he had laid out. Once we were settled lying on our sides facing each other, he answered my question.
“Sookie, a vampire cannot seem weak in front of others. Emotions are a weakness to vampires. Therefore, we learn to hide them in order to survive.”
“But. . .” I started.
“Let me finish.” He interrupted me. “With you, I cannot hide my emotions because of the bond. So, when we are alone I have no way, or reason, to hide.”
I thought about it for a minute and I realized that he was normally the most candid with me when we were alone. However, I still had one problem with his explanation.
“But sometimes when we are alone, you are still an overbearing jerk.” I blurted out before covering with a quick. “Sorry, Sorry!”
He laughed at my outburst before becoming serious. “I am still your Maker and much older than you. There is a lot for you to learn and you are still very young even in human terms. You are ruled by your emotions and this could get us both killed. It is my responsibility to teach you and discipline you.”
He paused for a moment before going on.
“I will be fair with you and encourage you, but there will be times that you may hate me for the lessons I have to teach you. This is unfortunate but unavoidable.”
I stared at him with my mouth gaping open. “You want me to hate you.”
“No.” He answered quickly. “I don’t want you to hate me, but I dare say you will at some point. There will be lessons that you won’t understand, and you will think I only do things to be cruel or hurtful.”
“Maybe you could figure out another way?” I almost pleaded before mumbling. “I don’t want to hate you.”
I was surprised when the words left my mouth but I realized they were true.
How could my world have changed so much in only three days?
Even though I tried to never show it, I was afraid of Eric only three nights ago. I was sure he would use any opportunity to control me and use me for my quirk. I didn’t think he had any morals and I knew he cared about himself above everything else. I was sure he was the enemy.
Someone to avoid.
Yet, now I felt like he was my safe harbor, friend, protector, and confidant. I no longer felt like he wanted to use me and he did have a sense of honor and fairness – even if it was a little skewed. I felt like he was honest with me and he had become someone I . . .
“What are you thinking about?” Eric’s voice shocked me out of my train of thought and I flopped onto my back while I tried to formulate my reply.
“I’m thinking about how much has changed in three days.”
“You mean like the fact that you don’t hate me anymore?” Eric asked teasingly; but I could hear the curiosity in his voice.
“Eric,” My tone was serious and his expression changed to match it. “I never hated you. I simply didn’t trust you or what you wanted from me.”
“Didn’t?” Eric raised an eyebrow. “But you do now?”
“Somewhat. Perhaps.” I smiled. “But I think I need to know more before I make my decision.”
“Wise choice.” Eric winked at me. “What would you like to know now?”
For the next hour or so, Eric and I spent time getting to know each other.
He told me his favorite place to visit was still his homeland and I learned that he listened to music based on his mood. Therefore, I should never come near him when he was listening to heavy metal because he’s more than likely enraged about something. However, jazz means he’s in a relaxed mood. He said Pam always tries to get his credit cards when he listens to jazz.
We had a nice laugh over that fact.
He also told me about some of the inaccuracies of history books in regards to the Viking era and about how he hates vampire politics.
When we talked about me, I shared with him my family tree. I told him about finding out about my parents’ death and then my Aunt Linda dying from cancer. Mostly though, I talked about my Gran and how much she did for me. He listened carefully and told me my Gran must have been a strong and honorable woman for everything she had done for our family.
Of course, I agreed.
Then, I shared my embarrassing addiction to cheesy romance novels. Eric said I should try some of Jane Austin’s books because he felt like I’d enjoy them. He even said he’d get them for me when we returned home.
He asked about places I’ve wanted to visit and I immediately told him about my fascination with Australia.
He promised we would go to Australia soon.
Eventually, I asked about Eric’s human family and I noticed he tense up immediately. So, I backtracked.
“You don’t have to tell me now, Eric.” I said reassuringly. “Just know that I would like to hear about your family when you are willing.”
Eric just nodded and turned his head to look at the ocean. I followed his gaze and found myself soothed by the rhythm of the waves and the glow of the moon on the dark water.
We sat in comfortable silence for what seemed an immeasurable amount of time, before I decided to go back to my list of questions I had for Eric about my new life.
“Eric,” I asked softly. “How long will I have to wait before I can see Jason or Lafayette?”
“Hmmm.” Eric answered lazily. “It will really depend on you. Your control, your behavior, and your punishments.”
“Punishments?” I sat up quickly and looked at him.
“Yes.” Eric said somberly. “I’ve told you that we will have to talk about your punishments for disobeying or disrespecting me. With Pam, I was able to use mostly spankings to punish her, but I think that would mostly just inflame you more if I used it too often. So, I think the best reward and punishment system for you revolves around time with the ones you care about.”
My heart clenched.
Just when I was starting to open myself up to Eric, he does something like this.
“But . . .”
“But nothing.” He interrupts me sternly. “You have no say in your punishments. You only have control in how often I have to deny you the opportunity to visit with your brother and friend. If you behave and have enough control, then you will see them soon. If you act like a hothead who follows every little emotion and cannot keep yourself from attacking humans or disrespecting me, then it will be much longer before you see them.”
After he finished speaking, I glared at him for several moments before turning to face the ocean waves again.
I really wanted to argue with him. I wanted to yell at him and tell him he had no right to keep my brother away from me. I wanted to chastise him for being so high handed. I wanted to run to the house and slam the door.
But I locked my muscles, stayed still, and took deep breaths of the ocean breeze.
I spent several quiet minutes arguing with myself and calming myself down. Everything from “you signed up for this” to “that selfish bastard” went through my mind in those few minutes, but I literally bit my tongue to keep quiet.
And that just made me angrier.
Because Eric had found the one thing that could quiet possibly overrule my pride and stubbornness.
My family and friends.
As if Eric could sense my internal struggle and see that I was finally starting to come to grips with my new reality where I didn’t have complete control over my life, he pulled me against his chest and stroked my hair.
“I will not abuse the trust you have placed in me by choosing me to be your Maker, Sookie.” He said quietly and I just nodded since I was too busy reminding myself of some very simple facts.
I chose this. I could have left but I didn’t.
I chose him. I could have told the Magister I wanted someone else.
And he chose me. He had plenty of ways of changing things if he didn’t want me.
Eric was right.
I could have walked away.
He could have walked away.
But we were both still here.
I may be required to follow Eric’s commands, but he was giving up his ability to live on his own.
He could order Pam away.
But we were a partnership.
We would always be together.
And I would never be human again.
I would never have children.
I would never be married.
I would watch my friends die of old age.
I would watch Jason and his children, and their children pass away.
I would never grow old.
I would always be as I am now.
Tears were flowing down my face as my thoughts spiraled out of control and Eric’s chest was very wet before I even realized I had started crying.
“Cry as long as you need.” Eric soothed me. “It’s okay. You need this to accept what is to come.”
“But I don’t know what’s coming! I don’t know what to expect! I can’t even picture the future because I don’t know anything!” I cried out. “I don’t even know what to hope for or what dreams I should have because it’s all so foreign to me. What will I be like? What will I do? What will I want? All I know is how to be human!”
A part of me was aware that my rant was incoherent but I couldn’t find the words to say exactly what I was feeling. I was so frustrated, angry, and afraid that my shoulders were shaking with the force of my sobs.
“I know you are afraid and I wish I had the words to take away your fears, but its natural to fear what you don’t know. Try to remember that you will not be alone. I will always be with you even if you do not want me to be.” Eric teased slightly. “So, if you find looking into the future to seem like looking into a black hole, try picturing me there instead. For I will be by your side, always.”
As Eric spoke, my sobbing lessened into a quiet waterfall of tears. Softly I asked, “What will my future be like? What will I do every night?”
Still petting my hair, Eric shrugged his shoulders while he spoke, “Whatever you would like to do, Sookie. There are some limitations because of the sun and politics, but those can mostly be worked around.”
Eric pulled away slightly to look at my face.
“Is there anything you’ve dreamed of doing? If money and family commitments were not in the way, what would you have chosen to do instead of waitressing?”
Before I could get a rant going about how waitressing was not a bad thing, Eric had a finger on my lips.
“I’m not saying waitressing is bad, but we both know it would not have been your first choice if you could have done anything you wished.”
“It wouldn’t work Eric.” I said sadly.
“So, there is something.” Eric said smugly.
“Yes, but it would be impossible for a vampire.”
I looked out at the ocean and spoke quietly. “I wanted to study social work. I wanted to help those who couldn’t help themselves. With my history. . . “ I trailed off not wanting to go into all the sadness and past abuse again. “Well, I wasn’t specifically set on helping children, but I wanted to help others. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Eric was quiet for a few minutes and I knew he was trying to think of a way to give me what I had always secretly wanted. When the quiet had stretched on long enough for me to realize that sunrise would be coming soon, I decided to let him off the hook.
“Eric, its okay. I know it’s not . . . “
“It’s not impossible, Sookie. I’ve only been thinking it through.” Eric said simply. I looked at him and was surprised to find a smile on his face. It was disarming.
“I agree that it will likely be a while before humans accept a vampire in social work. However, there are several ways you could help others by helping me as your Sheriff.”
I was intrigued, but skeptical.
“More often than I’d like, there are young vampires that come to my area and do not have any money, a place to live, or possessions. They have either been released by their Masters with nothing to their name or their Makers met their final deaths and they are alone.” Eric explained. “I could give you the resources to help them get settled in Area Five. Also, you could help protect the vampires and humans of the area by scanning the minds at Fangtasia for underage kids, drainers, drug dealers, and the like.”
I just stared at him.
“If this isn’t to your liking . . .” Eric started when he obviously couldn’t make sense of my body language or my emotions through the bond.
“I love it!” I interrupted him with a hug, and he laughed while hugging me back.
“We can work out the particulars when you get a little control, but the point, dear Sookie, is that there is still a future that you can look forward to. It’s not all darkness and death.”
I sat back on my heels in front of Eric and placed my hands on both sides of his neck.
“Thank you.” I said with tears in my eyes.
For the first time in three days, I felt something other than determination and resolve when I thought about my turning.
Now, I felt hope.
And I had the vampire in front of me to thank for it all.
For protecting me, for teaching me, for comforting me, for caring for me, and for giving me hope.
Slowly, I let my hands move into his hair and behind his neck. I leaned forward and softly placed a lingering kiss on his surprisingly soft lips.
“Thank you.” I whispered against his lips as his hands came up to hold my face. “Thank you for everything.”
Pulling back slightly, Eric’s eyes drilled into my own. “This is how it will always be, Sookie. I will always do what I can to teach you, protect you, and make you happy. You may not always agree with me and might get angry with me, but everything I do will be for one of those reasons.”
I nodded in response as a single lone tear of gratitude escaped my eyes. No one except Gran had ever done so much for me.
Eric sensually kissed the tear away before pulling back a little more and breaking our intimate moment.
“Unfortunately, sunrise will be soon and I have one last thing to tell you before I rest.” Eric said softly.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The people from the spa and the cook that is coming have been instructed to give you safe passage if you decide to leave.”
My face scrunched up in confusion. “Why would I need to leave?”
“I want you to relax today and enjoy the sun, the food, and Pam’s gift. However, if you decide this is not what you want, then all you need to do is leave. I will not follow you and I have enough options with the Magister to keep me from being punished.”
“I . . . I don’t understand.” I stammered out.
“It’s simple, Sookie.” Eric said while brushing my hair from my face. “I want you to know you are not a prisoner in this. If you stay, I will change you before the next sunrise because it is what both of us want. If you leave, then you have your freedom and I release you from the agreement.”
“Eric,” I said surprised. “I don’t want re . . .”
Eric held his hand up to stop me. “We do not need to argue about it. I am simply telling you the facts. You understand?”
I sighed and nodded. He was so stubborn.
“Now, I must go rest.” Eric said as he stood up and brushed a little sand off of his pants. “The sun will rise in about ten minutes.”
I stood in front of Eric and quickly placed my arms around his waist to hold him for a moment.
He returned the gesture and kissed me softly on the forehead.
We both released each other at the same time and he walked up to the cottage without looking back.
I watched him go until I could no longer see him, and then sat back down on the blanket to watch my last sunrise.