With him behind her once again, Sookie had to stop herself from moaning. She knew exactly how talented those callused fingers were at bringing her unbelievable bliss. Despite their issues, their lack of understanding, and often antagonistic repartee, she couldn’t help but want him again, Her first twenty-four years of celibacy were a breeze; the last eleven were hell.
Eric’s sensitive nose smelled his fairy’s arousal and knew his touch was the cause. He leaned in closer and reveled in the heat of her skin against his cool chest. “What are you thinking about, Sookie?” he rasped, letting his breath caress the tender skin of her neck.
“Nothing much,” she whispered in reply. “Just a long-ago October night.”
“A bittersweet month,” he said, just as softly. “The month when the final warmth of a Louisiana Indian summer fades to the chill of autumn. I wonder what was so special of that mid-fall night. Perhaps the memory of trick-or-treating with your daughter for her first Halloween? Maybe a cook-out when Americans celebrate an Italian, financed by Spain to find a faster route to India, and ‘discovered’ the Bahamas? A Viking revel for Leif Erikson Day?”
Sookie giggled as she imagined the residents of Bon Temps in furs and incorrect helmets with horns. “No, nothing like that. It wasn’t a holiday or any kind of celebration… not really. It was still warm enough to be muggy and the mosquitos were still swarming.” She struggled to focus when all she wanted to do was sink back and lose herself in the feel of his hands on her again after so many years.
Deciding she had nothing to lose, she scooted back on the sofa and rested her back against Eric’s chest. She felt him shudder as he inhaled her scent. “You might be overestimating my control, Sookie,” he groaned.
“I don’t think I am,” she argued. “You kept yourself from draining me when I was actively bleeding. Maybe it was the shock of seeing me again, but I think you underestimate yourself. You know me… at one time you cared for me. I know very well that you can hurt me; you have in the past,” she said bluntly. “You dumped me – not gently – onto a concrete floor before ripping open my wrist. But you’ve also comforted me, protected me, held me, played with me, talked with me, and made love with me. So while you can hurt me, I don’t think you would. You know that I’m more than a tasty scent.”
Tired of fighting the urge and knowing that they didn’t scare or intimidate his companion, Eric let his fangs drop. “It has nothing to do with hunger, Sookie. It’s you. You challenge my control. I also remember a ‘long-ago October’. We’ve both had other lovers in the many years between then and now. I know why it stands out in my mind. What was so memorable for you?”
Sookie closed her eyes and concentrated on nothing but the feel of her vampire’s hands kneading the tension from her back and shoulders. “You first.”
Although she couldn’t see him, she heard him roll his neck, popping the joints. “Freedom,” he answered quietly. “You wanted nothing from me but me. Beauty. The memory of your golden skin in the moonlight haunts me. Peace. The trickle of that little brook, the buzz of insects, our sounds of pleasure, the sound of our bodies together… it created a flawless concerto. Desire. You gave yourself to me in ways…” he trailed off for several moments. “We gave ourselves to each other in ways that no one else could ever have us afterward. Perfection,” he summed up softly.
Comforted by his recollection, she tilted her head and kissed the roughened knuckles that rested on her shoulder. “The same for me, almost exactly, as well as the sentiments. I’d add passion. You owned me that night. Not even my husband possessed me like that. During our marriage I wanted him, just once, to take me over the way you did that October night.”
“Was he good to you, Sookie? Did he treat you like the princess you are?” Eric whispered into her hair.
Sookie answered honestly. “He was a good man. He loved me and adored Addie. Caelum was what I needed at that point in my life. Materially, we never wanted for anything and he ensured that Addie and I would be financially secure if anything happened to him. We had our difficulties, differences, ruts, peaks, and valleys like any other couple, but yes, he was good to me and my life is better because he was in it, even if it was for a relatively short time. He gave me love and my baby girl.”
The Viking couldn’t keep the regret from his voice. “He gave you what neither Bill nor I ever could.”
Sookie’s eyes rolled incredulously even though Eric couldn’t see them. “Do you think I actively courted motherhood? Not quite. Despite Bill wishing his 1850’s ideals onto me, I never really wanted it. Telepathy made my childhood miserable and I didn’t want to risk passing it on. I used a few different birth control methods with Alcide. Could you imagine a telepathic Were as a teenager? No child – or parent – deserves that special kind of hell. It wasn’t until I met Caelum that I realized that fairies can have other talents. Addie’s childhood would have been very different if she hadn’t grown up around so many supes. It was a blessing in disguise that condoms have a 97 percent success rate. My pregnancy was part of the three percent they don’t usually mention except in sex-ed classes. As soon as I heard her little galloping heartbeat, she became the most important person in my life. But she came to me by luck, not because I was looking for her.”
Eric’s arms pulled her back toward him so she was almost sitting on his lap. “And after your husband? What lucky man took his place?”
She huffed a frustrated sigh. “Addie has a fae guard assigned by Niall to train her. He should have been recalled when she left for college and dismissed him, but he convinced Niall to let him stay. He’s been trying for eleven years to get in my pants and is seemingly impossible to discourage. He’s very close to getting a lemon meringue pie in the face if he doesn’t back off. But no… besides my friends Buzz and Woody, I haven’t been with anyone since Caelum.”
“Buzz… and… Woody?” he asked slowly, curious about the unusual nicknames.
She flushed a bright pink and he could feel the heat her face generated. “Well, a girl has needs and I’ve never been the type to sleep around, so Arlene and Holly got me some… toys,” she said with an embarrassed squeak.
He’d missed making her blush. “You have conversations with your daughter about blood dreams and the pros versus cons of a vampire lover, threaten your attempted murderess with genocide, warn a two-millennia old vampire about traitorous Were guards… but mentioning to a former friend that you occasionally take care of your sexual needs without subjecting yourself to possible pregnancy or disease makes you blush? Lover, if anything, that’s something I’d pay handsomely to watch. You are breathtaking when you come.”
“Fuck. How do you do that? We’ve been talking vaguely about sex for what seems like hours, but when you fall back on that pet name, I feel like the virgin wearing a sundress in your bar, uncomfortable with how you were leering at me.”
“I don’t leer, Sookie,” Eric said, feigning offense. “I was merely curious as to your association with Compton before I was stuck by lurid fantasies of bending you over my throne and fucking you in front of the fangbangers. But that was before I got to know you. Dallas was a huge milestone for that.”
“You started dreaming of fucking me back,” he said with a mischievous grin and a wiggle of his eyebrows.
Sookie’s lip curled in distaste. “Shows how much you know, Mister Smarty-pants. My dreams of you were never like that. They… disturbed me,” she confessed.
His grin evaporated. “Did I scare you? Hurt you?”
“No,” she said with a shake of her head. She finally turned to meet his eyes. “When Bill gave me his blood, I had those kind of dreams. Dreams where he seduced me and bit me. Dreams where he wasn’t the second-coming of Ashley Wilkes that he played. Dreams that frightened me and turned me on at the same time. Dreams that scared and confused me.
“But the dreams after your blood… I only clearly remember three, but the first is the one that’s stayed with me all these years. We were in bed together naked… but not doing anything but talking,” she said, exasperated when that grin reappeared. “There were little touches and small kisses, but you were trying to convince me that I had the right temperament to become a vampire. That I was greedy for wanting the sun along with the moon and stars… but you liked me that way. When I told you I could see through your stony façade… that I could see the love in you, you said ‘Only for Sookie’. And the entire time, Lorena was in the background trying to remind me of Bill. Was that his blood?”
Bewildered, Eric nodded silently. He’d very much wanted to fuck her in Texas, but by the time the maenad was ended, Bill abducted, and they had gone to Mississippi, he’d started feeling… affection for the stubbornly loyal telepath, which was most unwelcome. Feeling led to weakness. He couldn’t and wouldn’t admit to love until her fairy light removed the necromancers’ curse on him. Had his blood betrayed him by broadcasting his subconscious desires to her dreams?
Sookie continued. “In the next dream, I comforted you as you grieved for Godric. Your face was covered with bloody tears and you kissed me so desperately… even asleep it took my breath away.” She swallowed and moved away from the still-sensitive topic. “The last one I remember was different. You simply warned me that I couldn’t trust Bill. You did try to kiss me, but I stopped you, saying that I knew I was dreaming. Your grand argument was that if it was a dream, I should just enjoy it. I woke up and drove straight to Fangtasia, where you kissed me for real then chained me in the basement. Bygones,” she said, dismissing her imprisonment with a wave of her hand. “I was already suspicious when Bill told me about the side-effects of the blood. Never mind that I was so infatuated that I dismissed that the same warnings applied to my entire relationship with him. If I’d had dreams of you with dripping fangs and gyrating hips amid the fangbangers… that’s what I’d expected. For me to dream of you being sweet… funny, smart, open, sensual, and honest… that disturbed me. I’d spent months thinking of you one way and suddenly my subconscious was showing me something else entirely.
“Those sides of you didn’t seem forced or fake. I was becoming more and more disenchanted by Bill once I was used to his quiet. I was scared by the feelings I’d started having for you and I’m truly surprised that you never picked up on how forced my annoyed, blasé pretense was. After those amazing dream kisses paled to the real thing, I was secretly all aflutter inside wondering what else was better in reality… especially after seeing you with Yvetta.”
“Who?” asked a distracted Eric. It was most unlike him to let himself be lulled into repose by the tone and accent of her voice as well as the movement of her lips. Not that there was anything especially memorable about the fangbanging Estonian surgeon-cum-stripper besides her treachery.
Sookie rolled her eyes and grinned at him momentary memory lapse. “Can I try something? Addie suggested it and I want both of us to be able to let down our guards.” Before he could ask what she meant, she pulled a tiny pocket knife from her pocket. She took several steps away from the vampire, unsheathed the inch-long blade, sliced the tip of her left index finger, dropped the knife and instantly lit up her right hand. “I don’t think I’m overestimating your control, but I’ll have no guilt over zapping your ass if I am.”
The scent of her unclassifiable blood reached him and he couldn’t help inhaling deeply. Eric was helpless to keep his fangs from dropping and he growled like the predator he was when the tiny blonde stepped closer. “Stay back,” he warned her.
“No,” the sassy telepath shot back. “You aren’t giving yourself enough credit. Pam nearly killed me and you didn’t even sneak a little taste as I was actively bleeding on you. I’m not willing to give up another twenty-five years, Eric Northman. Why should something as fucking insignificant as my heritage stop us? There’s no Bill, no Fangtasia, no scheming queens, psychotic kings, or omnipotent Authority. No thieving bartenders, serial fangbanger killers, or bar-owning shifters that don’t know how to mind their own damn business. No V-addicted brothers, necromancing witches, vampire concentration camps, Hep-V infected hordes, or jealous, trigger-happy progeny.” Sookie took two more steps closer to the trembling Viking. “There’s finally nothing stopping us from having what we want and you want to give significance to the fact that my great-grandmother fell victim to Niall’s allure?” Another step closer. “No. I refuse to give them that kind of power over my life. If you can tell the original vampire goddess to ‘fucking blow’ you, you can handle this last half-step.”
She stood eight inches away from the former Louisiana sheriff, her right hand still glowing. There was no fear in her cocoa eyes when she said confidently, “I trust you.” Reaching out with her left hand, she swiped the wounded finger over his bottom lip.
Sookie retreated the half step she’d just taken to watch his reaction as Eric’s tongue, a surprisingly delicate shade of pink, peeked between his fangs and tentatively ran over the crimson streak. He closed his eyes as the strange, familiar, complex flavor registered. The sweetness of honey and crispness of wheat remained the same from the last time he tasted her. New to him was a richness that made him recall fresh cream from his human days. As always there was that forbidden flavor of sunlight… her blood was infused with that undefinable, incandescent taste that made him want things he hadn’t longed for in centuries. Her blood in quantity would likely give him the ability to laze in a sunny meadow at noon, but when it wore off and he started to burn… he didn’t know if he would have the ability or desire to make it back into the safety of the darkness.
With relief, he realized that the familiarity of her taste lessened what he was sure would have been an undeniable craving to drain her dry. It was an advantage to his age. Not only had he been granted the privilege of tasting Sookie’s one-eighth fairy blood, but he’d been fortunate enough to have more than a few full-fairies in his one thousand years-plus of night. She was certainly sweet and intoxicating, but she was in no danger from him.
He started to smile at her when he stiffened and hissed with discomfort. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that he’d received an echo of his child’s pain. Eric took a moment to shore up the bond between his oldest progeny and himself. He didn’t need the distraction of the toll her punishment was taking on her while still keeping the ability to feel her call if she were truly in distress. Once the sting of silver faded, he turned his attention back to the petite blonde. “You were right to have faith in me, it seems. Pam had neither tasted your blood nor any other fairy, hybrid or otherwise. As I have intimate memories of your… unique piquancy, the fae notes don’t seem to affect me as they did my child. However, if you weren’t you or I wasn’t me, you would be dust on last night’s breeze. You understand that, right?”
Sookie nodded emphatically, still shaken by how very close to death she’d been at this time the previous night. “I don’t usually go out after dark anymore. Niall and Parker spent years trying to teach me the masking that Addie does as second nature, but I never quite got it. If I lose my focus for even a second, pffft, it’s gone. It’s funny though… Lafayette and Arlene are very touchy-feely with me. The scent transfer makes their vampires extra… amorous.” She blinked and took a deep breath to bring the conversation back on track. “Did I ever get around to thanking you for saving me last night?”
Eric smirked at the telepath, still mentally thanking his gods that he’d kept his head long enough to do so. “I truly can’t remember. You’re welcome. I would have missed having this opportunity. One of the things I missed most about the time while I was cursed was the conversations we would have. I couldn’t remember my own child, but I was completely at ease wrapped around you, talking about my fears and desires. When Bill was getting ready to execute me, I told him that I was born the night you found me. That you took me in, protected me, cared for me… loved me, not for what I could do for you or give you, but for me, was surprising. No one, human or vampire, had ever shown me such selflessness.”
Sookie sniffled, choked up by the memories of those conversations while snuggled up under her old quilt that she’d pushed from her mind. “Don’t give me too much credit. I wanted my house back.”
He nodded. “And I always intended to return it from the moment I wrote the check to the realtor. But I wouldn’t be the cocky, opportunistic ass that you know if I hadn’t tried to use my ownership of the property to my advantage first. I can’t and won’t hold your first night back against you when everything you said and did while I was cursed contradicts that.”
“You are quite the multifaceted vampire, Mister Northman,” the hybrid chuckled. “You pillaged and plundered as a Viking, have rubbed elbows with royalty, served with the SS during World War II, became sheriff of a Podunk area in Northern Louisiana, discovered the cure to Hep-V, and now you’re the CEO of a multi-national corporation that will bring mainstreaming back to the States. I’m almost certain that you have more money than Bill Gates, the pope, and God combined. What could you ever want that you couldn’t by bribery, trickery, or thievery?”
His eyes were the sapphire of her dreams when they met hers. “You.”