Pam was rapidly losing her mind.
After Eric had told her of the deal he’d struck with Sookie regarding her house, she’d chalked it up to his fondness for the human and the supposed deliciousness of her blood that he’d sold out so cheaply. Five feeding sessions seemed paltry, at least to her mind. Especially since humans lined up to willingly feed Eric for free. Pam felt slighted on his behalf, like Sookie had fleeced her beloved maker. But no matter. He seemed happy with the arrangement, and Sookie’s house was hardly Monticello, so her interest in the matter ended there.
Or so she’d thought.
After the second payment rendered, Eric had returned to Shreveport, completely erratic.
He’d stormed through the bar, nearly tossing human and vampire customers out of his way until he reached his office, where he barricaded himself inside. Aside from his particularly foul mood, this in itself didn’t seem odd. And as per the usual routine, Pam dutifully scanned the crowd and found a suitably willing woman for her master’s entertainment. The one she chose that evening was tall, auburn hair, milky skinned with wide, green eyes. She smelled of lavender. She would do nicely.
The girl had barely made a meek entrance into Eric’s office before she came scrambling out, an enraged roar chasing her well out into the public area.
Pam’s ears perked and she watched as the girl ran tearfully for the door.
Bemused, Pam went to talk to him. Was the girl unacceptable? Was he in the mood for something spicier? Meatier? What the hell? He didn’t usually object to her choices for him. She found him brooding behind his desk, his eyes mere slits as he stared at the wall. The sparkling, ethereal scent of Sookie’s blood clung to his lips and sang just under his skin. He’d obviously enjoyed his appetizer for the evening. Pam wasn’t sure why he’d forgone the main course.
“What was wrong with her?”
His eyes shot up, almost like he hadn’t heard her enter. “What?”
Pam sighed. “The girl you sent packing? Was she not to your taste?”
She could hear his teeth grinding from across the room. She could also sense his hunger. It was always healthy, simmering just on the surface of his skin. It was there now, and it was barely under control. Eric had never been the sort of vampire who drank only what he needed. His zest for blood ensured that he drank for pleasure, far beyond bodily requirement. So what was the problem with the redhead she’d given him?
He shoved himself back from his desk, his expensive chair scraping the cement floor. “Tru Blood. B positive. And leave me the fuck alone.”
Pam’s eyes went round and she snorted in disbelief. “I’m sorry, I had something crazy in my ear. I could have sworn you just asked for synthetic shit in a bottle.”
He rose slowly. Pam knew this tactic. He used it on people he wanted to intimidate. His full height scared most people. Jesus, was he serious with this?
“I said B positive. Bring it to me, then turn around and get the fuck out. Am I clear?”
Pam obeyed. Obeyed, and chalked it up to a shitty fight with Sookie that left a bad taste in his mouth. He’d be better after he stewed in his own consternation, died for the day, and woke up fresh. Pam left him in peace.
But the next night was worse.
A million times worse.
Suddenly the bar was too small to contain Eric. Their small, Shreveport establishment was in no way equipped to cage a pissed-off, sulking animal. He paced the length of the place before it opened, grunting and grumbling about changes they needed to make to the place, then waving his hand, erasing everything he’d just said. After they opened, he locked himself in his office again, screaming for Pam. As she entered, she was bombarded with bizarre commands that left her reeling with confusion.
“You want me to do what?” she blinked at him.
From the flurry of crumpled paper on his desk, Eric barely looked up as he balled up another piece, then began writing rapidly on a fresh page.
“I said rehire the carpenters that built my cubby in Sookie’s house and have them build me another one in the forest nearby. Or the cemetery. I don’t give a fuck which. Just make sure it’s safe, but within fifty feet of her front door.” Another piece of paper hit the floor. A new piece met his pen’s cruel scribblings.
Her head slowly cocked to one side, regarding this crazy person who’d overtaken her logical sire.
“Sookie’s given her word she won’t rescind your invitation. Why not just stay in the cubby you’ve already built?”
Two blue bullets shot from his desk and impaled her. “Pam?”
She lowered her head instantly. This order was not to be questioned, or even mentioned, ever again. Even though it made no goddamn sense. Why would he need to sleep in her woods? If she welched on her promise and took back his invite, he could simply bully and cajole her into giving it back. There was no reason for him to keep a backup cubby nearby. To Pam’s mind, it stank of a lovesick schoolboy, mooning over the sweetest girl in class and guarding her from afar.
But she backed away, relenting. She wasn’t about to question him with that look in his eyes. “Yes, Eric.”
He went back to scribbling and didn’t see her as she swept up some of the paper balls on her way out. Once well away from his door, she smoothed out the first piece.
It’s vital that you understand-
It cut off there. Pam opened the next.
After considering our agreement, I’ve decided a renegotiation is required-
It cut off as well. Incredulous, Pam opened the final ball, which had been crushed with particular rage, down to the size of a marble.
I need you.
Pam stuffed the notes in her push-up bra. She’d burn them later. No one would ever discover such compromising drivel in her maker’s handwriting, not while she was around. She made a mental note to collect them all from his floor, later after he’d left for the evening. Meanwhile, it was time for him to get his shit under control.
She spied a tall, striking brunette at the bar. She smelled wonderfully healthy. She had a smoky, exotic face. Her legs could easily wrap around Eric twice, and give him the release he so clearly needed. Pam walked over to her and, with no preamble, dragged her into a glamor.
“You’ll go to him,” she instructed the woman as she dutifully set down her rum and Coke. “You’ll offer him everything he wants. Be as sweet as fucking sugar. Get him off. No matter what.”
Pam snapped her fingers and dismissed her, pointing to his office. “Sweet,” she repeated as the woman walked away.
She watched as the human knocked politely, then stepped into his lair once he barked his admittance. It was all of fourteen seconds before she was scurrying back out, just like the woman the night before, fully clothed, unbitten, and scared for her life.
“Fuck,” Pam hissed angrily. “Fine.” Plan B.
She prowled the crowded floor until she found the polar opposite. A young girl. Blonde. Petite. Not waifishly skinny, but rather a slender athletic appearance. Her face was innocent. Except for her eyes. Fire lived in her dark blue eyes. Pam caught her gaze and dragged her under as well.
“You will go to him,” she repeated again. “You will be impertinent. You will show no fear if he threatens you, nor will you leave if he demands it. You will argue with him. You will provoke him. Understand?”
The girl nodded, deep in the world Pam had spun, and walked to the office door.
This one stayed longer. Pam was hopeful. Perhaps a fantasy lay was what he needed, not his usual preference of tall and dark. This pixie-like thing should do the trick.
Three minutes later, the girl calmly exited Eric’s door and made a beeline for Pam. She tapped her shoulder to get her attention, then shocked her by taking her cheeks in her hands and pulling her face down to those big, blue eyes.
“I’m not Sookie,” she parroted from a glamored, faraway place. “No one is. Stop sending him women. He’s not hungry. For anything.”
With that, she released Pam and turned away, heading straight for the exit. No doubt Eric had glamored her home as well. This was no place for such a sweetheart.
She didn’t want to give up, but he pulled the ultimate dick move, as she discovered when her phone beeped with a text message.
I’ve gone out. Don’t call me. -E
She zipped to his office and threw open the door. Fucking sure enough. Empty. He’d slipped out the back door. Pam instantly felt like a truant officer, hunting piss-ant students that were supposed to sit quietly in detention. God, what a buzkill of a feeling. She cursed and slammed the door shut. She knew all too well, he wasn’t coming back tonight. His disdain for this bar right now, the trappings of being important to vampires and admired by breathers, all of it was suffocating him. A thousand years of immortality hadn’t changed him that much, he was still a creature of the forest. A hunter. A former man who’d loved the boundless ocean.
He liked getting lost.
And right now, he was lost…in Sookie.
No. He wouldn’t be back tonight. His desire for blood be damned.
And tomorrow night, he might not come back either, depending on whether or not his meal behaved herself.
Pam cursed her name silently, then went back to work.
It was well past midnight when Sookie pulled into her driveway on the night of her third payment. She eyed the lights on through the windows, barely registering that she hadn’t left them on when she’d left, hence someone had turned them on in her absence.
Her brain felt like oatmeal. Sam had talked her into working a double shift when Arlene had called in to say that Lisa had the chickenpox. With her shift starting at ten, Sookie was supposed to get off at six. Instead, she’d plowed through the entire day and night on a Saturday, no time for breaks or meals, as the rowdy crowds came out of the woodworks, taking advantage of Merlotte’s two-for-one beer pitcher night.
Her cramping legs screamed in agony as she stepped out of her car and slammed the door. She walked towards her lit house, dimly aware of the fact that the lights could mean only one thing: Eric was inside waiting for her.
Where that thought had thrilled and bothered her to no end two days ago, it barely mattered to her now as she trudged up her stairs and keyed her lock. She was too tired. Dead tired. Every muscle hurt and every brain cell had gone on strike. Getting all uppity about Eric and their weird-ass dance around each other was simply too expensive tonight.
She almost fell across her threshold, just managing to shut the door behind her.
His husky rebuke filtered in from her living room where she could hear her new flatscreen tv on, somebody talking about the physical properties of lead.
She shrugged out of her jacket and threw her purse down.
“Double shift,” she answered wearily. “Arlene called out and I needed the money.”
She walked into her living room. Even in her exhausted state, her heart fluttered briefly. Eric sat on her sofa, just as he had the other night, his long frame overflowing and spilling onto the floor. As usual, he wore dark clothes. Charcoal jeans and a dark gray, V-neck sweater that clung to every plane on his chest and stomach. She could just see the leather cord of his talisman peeking out at his neck, under his clothes. Against such a stormy backdrop, his blue eyes popped even more than usual.
He looked at her impassively. “You could have called.”
Sookie snorted and flopped onto the couch next to him, too far gone to care. “So could you. I didn’t realize you’d been waiting.”
On the tv, Jamie and Adam were busting the myth that a lead balloon couldn’t fly. They had taped together a bunch of lead foil pages into a cube and were filling it with helium. So far, it seemed to be working. The cube was filling. A lead balloon appeared to be disproving the old saying.
From her side, she could feel Eric’s eyes on her. She couldn’t tell from his silence if he was angry, or simply making an observation. Again, she couldn’t summon the energy to care. He’d come to sap even more of her strength, taking her blood in a pleasant, yet literally draining ritual.
She sighed. If only she could just rest for half an hour first.
“I’m guessing you’re hungry,” she mused out loud.
He didn’t answer right away, which was odd. She turned to him and found him examining her with startling intensity.
“You’ve overtaxed yourself,” he noted as he leaned towards her and inhaled with slow, unsettling scrutiny. “You’re nearly unconscious.”
Sookie willed herself not to back away from him. She shrugged slightly. “I’m all right. Just tired.” Her eyes slanted towards her dark kitchen.
Eric caught her glance and nodded. “I brought you pizza. I understand most humans love it.”
She instantly lowered her eyes, embarrassed that he’d seen her hope at the prospect of being fed again. The steak he’d brought the other night had been sinful. She’d devoured it in four bites. Now he’d brought her one of her favorite foods. She silently rebuked herself for wanting him to.
“Thank you,” she said automatically.
He began to stand up. “I’ll reheat some for you. You need food.”
Without thinking, she grabbed his hand and stopped him. “No!”
The contact startled him into stillness. He looked at their joined fingers, bending his wrist so that he could see more of hers and less of his.
“I…” she stammered, “…I just want to rest for a minute. Do you mind?”
He cocked his head at her, then nodded. “As you wish.”
He sat back down next to her, facing the silver cube as it rose higher in the cavernous warehouse. Up, up and away.
Speaking of lead, Sookie couldn’t hold her eyes open or her head up for another second. Again with no thought, she grabbed the fat throw pillow against the armrest and tossed it into Eric’s lap. She curled her legs up and fell head and shoulders onto the pillow, facing the tv and expelling a relieved breath as she collapsed into a fetal position.
“Oh, yeah,” she sighed gratefully, barely aware of the vampire she’d fallen into. It just felt so good to lie down. She had another shift tomorrow afternoon, and she was already tired from it as well. Combined with today’s drudgery, it felt less like earning a living and more like being crushed under an avalanche of bricks. Everything from her eyelashes to her toes hurt.
Vegging in front of the Discovery Channel felt almost as good as ten aspirins.
Eric looked down in surprise at the woman curled so trustingly in his lap. From the moment she’d stepped in the door, his annoyance at her tardiness had melted. There were dark circles under her bright eyes. She moved with less vivaciousness than usual. She put up absolutely no fight at his presence in her house or his snippy questions. She was too tired to even notice that she’d cuddled up against him, silencing his aggressive hunger for her and filling him with a calm, utterly foreign sense of protectiveness. At her touch, the burning restlessness he’d felt for the last two days vanished. He relaxed. He cocked his head, confused by the physical changes that beset him.
He’d come for blood and with every intention of arguing his way into her bed. Every inch of him had been seething with the need for release. Sadly, none of the candidates that Pam had rousted at the bar had interested him. Quite the opposite, they’d turned his stomach. This ache in him, usually filled so easily with any number of random beauties, had narrowed into a very specific longing. It was Sookie. Only Sookie.
His fingers slid into her loose hair and began to rub slow, soothing circles, hoping to dispel the ache he could sense in her head.
Her eyes fluttered closed. “You don’t have to do that,” she murmured softly.
“I want to,” he answered truthfully.
With closed eyes, she arched her brow. “Part of your blood-letting package, is it? Free head rubs?”
Her chuckle turned to a gasp when he curled down into his lap and put his lips under her ear. “You’re too tired. As badly as I want to, I won’t be tasting you tonight, little fairy.”
The coolness of his lips banished her fatigue and replaced it with adrenaline-fueled arousal. She bit her lip, hoping to quell it. Feeding Eric and going to bed good. Going to bed and fucking Eric bad. She suddenly wished she’d told Sam to take his extra shift and shove it where the sun don’t shine. She should have realized she’d need all her wits about her to combat this stupid, sexy scoundrel.
“Yes, you will be. Otherwise this would just be a pizza date on a Saturday night.”
He didn’t remove his lips from her skin. “You tease me,” he gruffed low and playful. “I like the idea of bringing you food and watching tv while you lie against me.” His finger toyed with the shell of her ear. “Very, very much.”
“Yeah, well,” Sookie tried to shake him off, but he kept his place coiled around her. She rolled her eyes. “That’s not what we’re doing here, buster. I’m not going to let you drag this out for weeks. Five feeds, and tonight is number three.” She arched her neck in his lap, preening for him. “Go nuts.”
Sookie huffed at his quiet rebuttal. She pulled his hand out of her hair and cupped it around her throat, provoking him with the warm, soft throb of her pulse. “Yuh-huh.”
Sookie smirked. His tongue said no-no, but his dental erection said yes-yes.
“Do all fairies fight this dirty?” he asked.
Sookie chuckled. “I doubt any fairy ever had to work this hard for a vampire bite.” She turned up in his lap to look at him, smiling faintly. “Are you losing interest already? Am I like cheap bubble gum that tastes great at first, but goes bland after a few chews?”
Eric growled, his body going rigid, his hands clutching her greedily, as if someone were threatening to snatch her away. “Cheap and bland? Are you fucking crazy?”
“Well, then what’s the holdup?”
“The holdup is your health,” he gritted angrily. “The holdup is that I want you happy and strong when I taste you.”
Sookie frowned at his tone. “I am strong,” she defended. “God, you make it sound like I just wandered out of a death camp. It was just a double shift. I’m fine.” She jabbed her finger at her pulse. “Eat up. I need to go to bed.”
“I said no.”
For God’s sake! She lifted from his lap, enough to get into his face. “Drink now or I go get another knife and cup.”
“You think I’d let you take a single step towards the kitchen, little girl?”
She bit her lip. “Eric Northman, I rescind your-,”
His hand flew out and clapped over her mouth. She’d said it slow enough, giving him plenty of time to stop her. Over the stack of his fingers, her eyes flashed with the unfinished threat. Drink me now, or I kick you out.
He glared daggers at her. Her lips had gone soft and still under his hand, making him want to remove it and replace it with his mouth. Fuck, she smelled glorious. And she was draped over his legs, leaning into him while he held her face in his hands. Most baffling of all, she was encouraging him to bite her…and he was refusing! What the hell was wrong with him? He’d drunk people who were dying on battlefields. He’d drained women. Children. Parents who begged for his mercy for their soon-to-be orphans. He’d killed them all.
Now an exhausted waitress lay pliant and willing in his arms, and he was resisting because he couldn’t bear the thought of reducing her further. He wanted her fiery, like their second feeding. He wanted her stony barriers to fall away as he educated her on what it would be like to be his. He had plans. There was no way in hell that he could stop at just five. Sookie’s blood had ruined him. There was no alternative, she had to be his. Eric would go mad if she wasn’t. So he’d fed as he’d never fed before, biting her with the upmost care, holding her like a thin piece of crystal, cushioning her body with his own. He’d never put so much of himself into a meal, and the result had undone him. With only their minds, they’d made love to each other. Unknowing and unwillingly, they’d fallen into each other, pressing, learning, touching, as their bodies lay peacefully joined at her throat.
And he wanted that. Every single fucking night from now on.
He refocused on the woman in his lap as she watched him expectantly.
She wasn’t giving him a choice. Feed now. His seduction would have to wait until number four.
“Fine,” he muttered with bad grace.
Sookie nodded, relieved, and made to sit up. Eric held her down gently. “Stay as you are,” he instructed. “Sleep, if you like. I’ll make sure you feel nothing.”
She snorted in disbelief. “Sleep? While you feed? Are you kidding?”
He looked at her squarely. “You don’t trust me?”
Her gaze slid to the side as she considered. Then, she shrugged. “I guess I do. I mean, you’ve been gentle so far. Right?”
He nodded. “You make me want to be gentle.”
Sookie kept her eyes away from him and turned back towards Mythbusters, settling back down on the fat pillow. Its plumpness put her mid-chest on Eric, which meant he could bend down easily to reach her. As she closed her eyes in anticipation, he softly dusted her hair from her neck, tracing it sweetly.
“Your skin is beautiful,” he praised roughly. “To be rough with you would mar it. That’s unforgivable.”
Sookie merely blinked. “Cut the poetry, Eric. Just do it.”
She heard a pained sigh above her. “Every night, if you’d let me.”
He bent over her and bit down. Sookie inhaled sharply, expecting pain with his penetration, yet feeling none. Instead, just like before, warmth invaded her body as her life forced flowed from her and into his waiting, undead form.
“How do you do that?” she murmured, closing her eyes and going limp in his lap. Far from feeling invasive, Eric’s bite felt as soothing as a hot water bottle. Or a head rub. Or a loving man who wanted to make her feel better.
He withdrew and answered. “Do you want me to talk, or do you want me to feed?”
Sookie rolled her eyes behind her lids. “Fine. Sorry. Eat.”
He carefully reinserted his fangs into their punctures and drew from them. As before, the room erupted with the sound of a purring lion as Eric melted into her exquisite taste. Sookie laughed softly. With her defenses down, she couldn’t help but enjoy how much pleasure he obviously took in drinking from her. He’d told her the other night that she should never doubt a vampire’s gratitude when she deigned to feed one. With Eric, she could hear his gratitude as deep and clear as an outboard motor, just as she could feel it in the cool, soft pluckings of his fingers as they coasted over her ribs and bare arm. His other hand burrowed between her head and the pillow, cradling her to him.
The shiny, cubist balloon was twenty feet off the ground. “Holy cow!” Adam exclaimed. “It’s time for the finishing touch!” The mythbuster attached a small basket on strings to the bottom of the cube, complete with paper dolls Adam and Jamie inside. The balloon hoisted its passengers away, the two flesh men laughing from the ground as the unlikely contraption floated gently above them.
Eric kept his word.
Sookie felt nothing but pleasantly attended to. Her consciousness slipped further away. Sleep felt like a real possibility. She never would have believed it. His was technically a violent act, yet she felt safe. Protected even. Like she would never need to be afraid again, as long as Eric kept vigil beside her, her blood keeping him nourished and alert and…devoted.
She pinched her eyes together. It must be the blood loss making her think such mushy nonsense.
Suddenly he was lifting away from her, his tongue passing over his mark as he reluctantly disengaged.
Sookie murmured and shifted towards his retreating form. “Already?”
A low growl answered her, his hand sweeping down her side and over her hip. “Any more and I’ll endanger you.”
“Hm,” she sighed noncommittally, snuggling backwards.
“Pizza, lover. And bed. You need these things.”
Ha! Lover? Why of all the freaking nerve…
But her mouth didn’t cooperate. “Hm,” she hummed again. “Did you enjoy your dinner?” she muttered.
His chuckle was rich and warm. “It’s the only meal I want for the rest of my life.” He paused, letting his hands slide soothingly over her, but not too inappropriately. “Consent to me, lover. Be mine. I’ll care for you, protect you with everything that I am.”
“No,” she sighed, feeling him press a bloodied finger to her pulse, healing her. “It would never work, Eric. You and I…we’re impossible.”
He was quiet for a long time behind her. Sookie drifted off again. She was vaguely aware of being lifted up. Something tall and strong was carrying her away. She was lowered into her bed, her blankets wrapped around her and her hair slowly teased away from her face.
“Impossible?” a voice chided her from far away. “Sookie, don’t you understand?”
“Unnersand what?” she muttered in her sleep.
“You and I, sweet fairy, are the lead balloon.”