Sookie’s core clenched with the memories the growly timbre of his voice evoked. Eric had always been a passionate being despite his cool and calm demeanor. One of her biggest regrets was never giving him a chance after his memories returned. A seemingly throw-away comment tickled her mind. “What do you mean ‘walked away a second time’? I never…”
He pressed a cool finger to her lips. “After Bill died, I felt you. It wasn’t as strong as it had been, but I could feel you getting closer to Shreveport. I left the stage to do some work in my office; when I returned, you were getting farther away. Of all the times for your fool-hardy courage to fail you… from the disappoint flooding your being, I assumed you no longer wanted me and were cutting ties with the supernatural world, denying that essential spark that marks you as so much better… so much more… than a mediocre, ordinary human.”
The hybrid bit her lip and nodded. “Work. Right. ‘Work’ in the form of a ‘mediocre, ordinary’ fangbanger that I watched you summon from the bar. You had to know I was there, watching and waiting. I watched you choose her, crook your finger, and she was yours to command. Work. So much for honesty.”
He felt her mood sour and hastened to explain. Brushing a lock of blonde away from her cheek, he tilted her face up to meet his icy eyes. “Yes, work. It was a chore to prepare her overly-perfumed neck. I had to force myself to take even four mouthfuls of her bland B-positive. I was withering, starving as I waited for you to stop mourning Compton. I needed to be strong for you. That fangbanger was nothing more than a cheap container for basic sustenance. I wanted you.”
“You never followed through! You knew where I lived, Eric. You had my number. You can fly, for fuck’s sake! When you felt me leave, you could have followed. You probably could have beaten me home. Yeah, you wanted me, but not enough to come after me.”
Eric’s lip curled. “Last time I humbled myself and told you how I felt, you refused to choose. Rather than hurt one person and break a single heart, you became a coward at the strangest time, chose neither of us, and broke three. Sookie Stackhouse will face serial killers, maenads, religious fanatics, covetous makers, three-thousand year old vampire kings, blood-addicted Weres, fairy kidnappers, necromancing witches, ancient fairy-vampire hybrids, Hep-V infected hordes, and Yakuza gangsters without a second thought, but ask her to make a choice between two immortal men who would love and worship her like a goddess, and she becomes craven… weak… and runs from making a decision like a child.”
Sookie’s chin trembled at the truth of his accusation. “I knew both of you were influencing me with your blood! I didn’t…”
The Viking cut her off with a menacing growl. “Stop using that chicken-shit excuse. The blood? Let me tell you a little something about the blood. It heals your wounds, makes you stronger, and will get you high in significant doses. If taken directly from the source, it gives you dreams and allows the vampire to gauge your emotions and locate you. It cannot create feelings from nothing. If you feel contempt for a vampire, ingesting their blood will not change that feeling. You didn’t want to admit what you felt. You’d learned the truth about Bill’s deception and seen me at my most vulnerable. You were scared,” he accused, as though her fear were a mortal sin.
The telepath shot to her feet to loom over the seated vampire. “So what if I was? You and Bill nearly died that night! Just a few days earlier, you both nearly sacrificed yourselves for my freedom. The week before that, Bill almost staked you, then you became doubly cursed and almost staked him! My gran – my dead gran – spoke to me through that witch and warned me not to give my heart away because the new love in my life wouldn’t last. My gran, who never steered me wrong. Gran, whose spirit appeared when my friend was possessed by the witch that Bill shot in the head decided to roast the two of you over a big fucking bonfire. I was a little overwhelmed, okay?
“Besides, you couldn’t have been too ‘broken-hearted’. You were fucking Nora and telling her how much you loved her just hours later, right?”
Rehashing the past and failures on both their parts was not what Eric had in mind when they took their leave from the penthouse. He stood silently and walked to the large bank of windows. After several moments of focusing on the twinkling skyline, he decided to redirect the conversation. “Were all the vampires that your daughter referenced in her paper from Area Five?” he asked calmly.
Even though he wasn’t looking at her, Sookie nodded. “Yes. Jessica and Hoyt still live next door to me. James and Lafayette are still together and opened a fabulous little bistro halfway between Bon Temps and Shreveport. But the one we’re closest to is Keith Charles.”
Eric finally turned to face her. “Keith… Tudor British, right? Helped rid Fangtasia of its Hep-V infestation? Saved the skinny, dyed redhead if I’m remembering correctly… he seemed like a nomad when he checked in. I’m surprised he hasn’t moved on by now.”
Sookie nodded again. “True, but now the nomad has roots. Arlene – the skinny redhead – was the second in line to get the human Hep-V cure. They’re still like newlyweds after more than two decades. Head over heels in love and his blood has kept her from noticeably aging. Her children adore him and I suspect before too long, his child will have a sister.”
“He has a child? When he signed into the area, he said he had no progeny,” Eric said. Had the Tudor-era vampire lied to his sheriff or irresponsibly brought over a local since the Viking resigned his position of authority?
“He has a foster he’s all but adopted. A young vampire, abandoned and released by her maker when she didn’t even know the basics of survival in her new state. She knew that she needed some kind of mentor and Keith, with his more than five centuries of experience, offered to take her in. God knows she was too proud to ask, but besides fangs, that may be a quality she inherited from her sometimes-proud-to-a-fault maker.”
“Willa,” Eric sighed resignedly. “She came into Fangtasia and ordered me to release her. I agreed in exchange for information to find the Newlin bitch. It was what she wanted and I knew I’d failed her. I’m actually relieved that she has found someone to guide her and keep her safe when I couldn’t.”
“It wasn’t that you couldn’t, Eric,” Sookie said softly, shaking her head. “You turned her for revenge against her father. Once he was dead, she served no other purpose than to remind you what he cost you – namely your sister. She was a walking, talking, surviving memento of that loss and I understand you wanting distance. But she deserved better than that and with Keith’s advice and counsel, she’s thriving in Bon Temps. Once she gained some control over her impulses and Addie mastered tempering her scent, the two of them became quite close and I’ve gotten to know her well through association. Despite the years, she still holds quite a grudge against you.”
The Viking nodded stoically. “I’m aware and doubt there’s anything I can do to ever earn her forgiveness. Godric would be so disappointed in me. He taught me better.
“But enough about me. You’ve undergone some changes, Fairy Sookie, and I’m incredibly curious as to why you actually smell like the fae when before you simply smelled sweet.”
The telepath sighed and explained to her former lover the circumstances behind her new scent and lack of noticeable aging. All Eric could think was that there was now unlimited time to regain the affections of the sassy little sprite beside him. Unfortunately, there was also the fact that her new, stronger scent set his fangs throbbing and he had no doubt that if he’d tasted her blood when he’d had the chance, he would have drained her. The realization left him… conflicted.
Sookie was unaware of his inner turmoil. She enjoyed their simple chats. He never failed to flatter her in different ways. Sometimes he would be crude, making her to gasp and smack at him. Other times he could be playful; she would blush and giggle like a teenager with a crush. But the very rare times when he was sweet and tender with her were the times she both hated and longed for. Those were the times that had made her second-guess all the choices she’d made with him.
When he would gently brush her cheek with his fingers, she wanted to allow herself to arch into his touch. When his ungelled hair brushed his forehead, she wanted to rake her fingers through the silky, dark blond strands. But when he allowed the ice to melt from his eyes, the resulting blue was captivating and Sookie found it difficult to deny him anything.
Eric lost control of his inner masochist – one he would swear he never had before – and silently turned Sookie’s body so she faced away from him. Millennia-old calluses gently rubbed over her neck, pausing to feel the strength and rhythm of her pulse. “I’m pleased you were not scarred by the attack. Skin this smooth… this soft… should never be marred by violence.”
Knowing he couldn’t see her, Sookie allowed her eyes to flutter closed. She had enjoyed Bill’s touch since she wasn’t inundated by his thoughts. By the time she became involved with Alcide, she had decent control over her shields and could somewhat enjoy their intimacy. But once she heard from his thoughts that Debbie had been better – wilder – in bed, she focused more on protecting her mind that on physical release. Caelum… Sookie really missed her husband. The half-fairy’s thoughts were safe in his own head and the couple’s sex life was enjoyable, even during Sookie’s pregnancy and Addie’s infancy. For the duration of their relationship, she only had a single physical need that her husband didn’t fulfil.
Their joinings could be playful, when teasing and tickling transitioned from joking to foreplay. Caelum was sincerely romantic and receiving roses “just because” was not unusual. It was common to find chilled champagne, a home-cooked meal, and a neighbor babysitting. Caelum knew his wife’s body well and the couple could easily spend the night making love and reveling in the pleasure they received from each other’s bodies.
Sookie’s husband had been the most even-mannered person she’d ever encountered. They would disagree, argue, or bicker, but never fought. The telepath knew that her fairy loved her truly and deeply… but part of her missed the madness.
She wanted hard-wrought passion. She wanted to be looked at like she would be devoured at any second. She wanted her man to be so frantic with desire that making it to the bedroom would take too long. She wanted to be ravished, taken, manhandled and manipulated by adoring hands. Sookie wanted someone who was vocal in their pleasure – moaning at the taste of her skin, growling at the feel of her cunt clenching around any number of appendages, rasping tender-depraved-amorous-filthy nothings in her ears until she came from his voice and the mental images alone.
The telepath had all of that… once. Bill, turned off by decades of his maker’s perversions, never could or would let himself go fully with his human lovers. Sookie’d had no illusions regarding her short-term affair with the fairy-vampire hybrid. When he was Ben, he was sweet, handsome, and had an accent that ruined her panties. But when the sun went down and Warlow came out, he was dangerous, cruel, and somehow even more appealing.
But Eric… she still got shivers twenty-five years after the fact when she remembered how he looked at her when he found her in the woods. Her first time with the Scandinavian vampire was a total sensory experience. She could never forget the way the softly babbling creek harmonized with the deep timbre of his voice. She would forever associate the mixed scent of Indian summer dew, crushed grass, moss, and sex with Eric. Although he was undeniably gorgeous wet and laughing in the late morning sun, there was something almost otherworldly about the beauty of his long, lean body, pale under the light of the full moon. Something about the taste of Eric’s skin could still make her mouth water. Even though he didn’t sweat, his chest and neck still carried a slight hint of salt. His mouth tasted similar to his blood – just as sweet, nearly as intoxicating, but not as concentrated.
But his touch…
More than once Sookie had laid in that utilitarian bed in the cubby Eric added to her house, straining for a hint of the frozen sea scent that seemed imbedded in his skin. Skin that was cool and soft under her fingers. Her core would clench and she’d rub her legs together when she remembered how the crisp hair of his legs felt against her inner thighs. Sookie’s breath would catch as her own hands mimicked the path that his had taken – down her neck, over her shoulders, lingering to appreciate her breasts and the valley between them. Roughened fingers had skimmed down her sides, almost but not quite ticking, before joining his palms in a glide up her stomach. Again, his hands paid homage to her smallish but incredibly sensitive tits, but the worship expanded to include his lips, tongue, and fangs teasing her to the very edge of bliss.
Before she could fall, he stopped. She whimpered in near-pain for the deprivation. He looked down at her with a grin so sweet it almost stopped the ache. Almost.
Although he couldn’t remember why, he’d felt a tie to the svelte blonde writhing beneath him. He felt her pleasure when he kissed her and sucked a spot on her neck just below her hairline. Eric felt that pleasure ratchet even higher when he scraped his fangs over her raspberry-colored nipples. With every press of his lips as they traveled down her abdomen, he felt her desire, her lust, her anticipation increase. His cursed mind couldn’t comprehend how King Bill could have betrayed a woman like the one giving him pleasure he was sure he’d never felt before, with or without memories.
They made love in the woods under the clear sky and full moon. Despite several orgasms thanks to Eric’s instinctive erotic skill, Sookie couldn’t help but want more. Likeminded, Eric flew them to the farmhouse and naked, they fell through the front door, one on top of the other, unable to restrain their lust.
For the next quarter century, the telepath would hold that night as the pinnacle of sensual, sexual perfection. The fairy hybrid and the vampire took each other over and over in more ways than she’d ever attempted with her only other partner. When she would remember how he pushed her onto her hands and knees then entered her from behind, her stomach would twist and her core would tense in preparation for quick relief courtesy of her own fingers. She needed only to think about how his tall body molded to her, how his long arms reached under her, massaging her clit and pinching her nipples to heighten her pleasure, how his narrow hips would pitch as he drove his gracious plenty into her, the rhythmic sound of skin against skin mingling with his passionate growls and her pleasured cries, to feel her juices soaking her panties. Even after more than two decades, it remained her go-to fantasy.