She’d been back for several days.
I’d felt her, felt our minute blood tie flare back to life the moment she returned from whatever place I’d been unable to find her. The raw, tingling pulse of sunshine that shone just behind my eyes, it could be nothing else. Sookie. She was home.
Her absence over the last few months left it difficult for me to maintain my composure. My stoicism betrayed none of my inner agony. I continued to run my bar and mediate as Sheriff, but inside, I was going alarmingly mad.
Where was Sookie? Where the fuck had she gone off to?
My networks were notified. My spies were all put on alert. Find the girl. Look high and low. Watch Compton, see if she returns to him. Follow her family and friends. Bug their phones. Keep close tabs on her idiot brother and shifter boss. If she was within five hundred miles, I would know it.
Then suddenly our tie sizzled back to life and I knew before any of my associates called (and many of them did), my little Fae had returned home.
The first night, Pam had reined me in, stopping me from flying out the door of Fangtasia, across the dark expanse between Shreveport and Bon Temps, and straight to the steps of the old Stackhouse home. The need in me to do so was so great that Pam had actually slapped me, shocking me with her insubordination. My fangs clicked menacingly at her, as did hers to me.
“Don’t be stupid,” she hissed. “She’ll never speak to you. Not like this.”
I paused halfway towards the door. “I have to,” I rumbled back. “I need to see her.”
“Then see her. But do not let her see you. She is stubborn, your little obsession. Observe her first. Scent her. Determine if she still wishes you harm.” Pam’s eyes glittered at the thought of my weakness for an unknown problem like a hybrid Fae. Her eyes fluttered as she tried to pull together a rational argument. “I won’t have you throw yourself at her feet, only to feel our bond die as she stakes you. You will take care, Eric.”
I pulled an unnecessary breath, letting my fangs retreat. She was right. I must approach Sookie slowly, if not for myself, then for her own delicate state of mind. I had no idea where she’d gone, or if she’d done so willingly. She might be frightened. Or injured. Or perfectly happy and prepared to move on with her life. There was no way to know, that was, until I looked upon her with my own eyes and felt her emotions through our connected blood. And I did not need to interact with her for that. I could merely observe.
I nodded to my progeny. “Very well. I will stay hidden.”
Pam expelled an equally useless breath and nodded. “Excellent.”
I flew off. Fuck the car. Human speed limits were not an option tonight.
I landed at Merlotte’s first, inhaling deeply the moment I alighted in the parking lot. The scent of her was so old that is was almost completely written over by the smells of others. She was not here, nor had she been in the past two months at least. I took off.
I shot straight to the Stackhouse home. I didn’t land, I couldn’t risk her seeing me. I kept to the tree line, hovering twenty feet in the air, moving slowly. I rounded the property, taking in the dim lights in the living room and solitary yellow light in an upstairs window. I leveled myself with that window, my telescopic eyesight zooming in with no trouble.
Right goddamn there.
My blood tie with her sang on my end, ricocheting through my body as it recognized its other half. There, laying peacefully amongst quilts made by dead loved ones, was my Sookie. She was reading in bed, her lamp turned just so that if fell across her face and onto the page before her.
I inhaled without thinking, scenting for blood, searching for injury, momentary fury shooting through me at the thought of her being hurt while she’d been away. But there was nothing of that nature in the air. Indeed, Sookie smelled…like pure angel.
From my vantage, I could smell everything. She had taken a shower tonight. She’d used something that smelled like peaches with minimal chemicals. She’d brushed her hair, the scent of the tendrils drifting lightly around me. Her sheets had been dried in the sun. I could taste it at the back of my throat as I breathed. And most of all, I scented her pumping blood. Far sweeter than peaches and more precious than sunshine, my sweet little Fae smelled naturally of pure vampire temptation.
I am dead. I do not intoxicate on any substance. I have no explanation as to why Sookie Stackhouse was able to go straight to my head and leave me reeling. It had been a mild annoyance before she’d left. It was almost incapacitating now. The woman knocked me down. Hard. I reached out to steady myself on a nearby branch as I collected myself. It took everything I had not to throw myself at that window, lack of invitation be damned.
Instead, I watched. I pulled up with resolve and stayed still, taking in every little detail of the face I hadn’t seen in far too long.
She hadn’t changed a bit. Obviously. She was still young. Still pretty. Still tan, which surprised me for some reason. I hadn’t expected her to do something as frivolous as maintain her sunbathing regime, not when she’d left me to the horrors of worst-case-scenario thoughts. Perhaps all Faes were naturally golden. I had no fucking idea. There were some things in this world I simply wasn’t schooled in.
She was reading a thick book on the Battle at Bull Run. I cocked my head at her choice. It was her gran’s book. I could smell an older, gentle soul in the paper. The house was saturated with it, intertwined with my love’s. She was captivated by its content, her fingers flicking the pages at the charming speed of human reading. I let out a breath I’d been holding for months. It was the essence of relief. She was safe. I felt no pain or fear in our tie. Her blood in my body whispered a tiredness, and a greater wisdom of the world, but she was still Sookie, the petite waitress who dared to stare me down and call me a no good bastard when all others gaped in wonder. Her presence back in my world thrilled me to the bone.
Entranced, I continued to stare.
She was so absorbed, she did not notice the other presence in her room.
But I did.
I sensed the cat slink into her room before I saw it. It leapt lightly up onto the edge of her bed. A tabby, with the perky ear set and jaunty tail of an animal about a year old, it had yet to mature into that slow disinterestedness that was an adult feline. From the lack of its smell in the house and the newness of its life, she’d obviously acquired this pet very recently. Days, even. Sookie looked over briefly from her book, smiled gently, and went back to her page.
“Hey, sweetie,” she mumbled quietly.
It needed to more invitation and cantered happily up the bed, closer to its mistress. Without preamble it climbed onto her stomach, walking a tight circle before settling down on her nightshirt. Still deeply engrossed in her reading, Sookie did not look up as her hand lifted. At the brush of her fingers to the animal’s head, the room exploded with the contented purr of a creature wildly in love with her touch.
I did not notice my heart clench.
The tabby’s head slipped back, baring its neck to her fingers as she scratched along its ears and chin before slipping her tapered fingers down, following the contours of its delicate spine, palming its ribcage, before rounding off with its tucked-in tail. The procedure started all over again. Heavenly strokes to its face, down its back and haunches, and finally the tail.
I was in Hell.
With an imagination that only a vampire can boast, I was suddenly there in its place, resting my ear against her tummy, rubbing my chin against her shirt and reveling in the scent of her closeness. Her hand moves in my hair, which I’ve left natural and without gel so that her fingers can twist it into little tornadoes, only for her to release them, the strands flipping back to their normal state. Her nails ghost over my scalp, sending shivers down my spine that I already feel at the mere idea. She pets me. She absently adores me. And my significantly louder, vampiric purr erupts, letting her know that more than one creature was wildly in love with her touch. Maybe she would read aloud to me. Maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she’d set her book aside and talk to me about the fascinating little nothings that composed her life. Maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe I’d turn my face into her bellybutton and whisper every damn secret and dream I’d kept locked in my head for centuries. She would continue to touch me sweetly, wordlessly encouraging me.
I shook my head hard. These longings irked me savagely. Vampires do not seek physical contact that doesn’t end in feeding or fucking. There’s no need for it. Why did these visions attack me so vehemently? Why was I so enthralled at the idea of Sookie stroking me like a whipped pet?
I focused back on the creature nestled under her breasts.
The cat was still awash with pleasure. It uncoiled from its balled up position and stretched long and wide on its back, down the length of Sookie’s stomach, hips and valley between her thighs. Shamelessly, it offered its unprotected belly to her ministrations. Sookie didn’t even spare it a glance; she took the creature’s submission as a natural progression. Her hand reached down and stroked it from chest to groin, flattening the fur, thrilling the animal. It arched up into her hand, desperate for more. She gave it, petting again and again, her nails teasing slightly along the skin.
And suddenly the cat could stand no more.
With a predator’s speed, that sweet little tabby latched onto its mistress’s hand, claws out, fangs bared. In a flash, it bit the silky skin of her inner wrist, ears back as it held its prey tightly, sinking its teeth into my beautiful Fae’s arm.
Jealousy roared in my ears.
Sookie jumped at the unexpected attack, looking down its supine form in mild disapproval.
“Ouch,” she said kindly, rocking her arm back and forth, egging it on despite herself. “That hurts.”
The cat seemed to understand and switched tactics. Still holding on for dear life, the tabby retracted its sharp teeth and replaced them with its tongue, licking the bite mark with adoring apology. Sookie’s face scrunched at the rasping, sandpapery feel, willing her ticklishness away. She opened her mouth to speak, probably in praise, but the cat was still a cat, and it began it fanged attack anew.
Sookie chuckled, watching the strange creature that could not decide between bites or licks. And yet she permitted it, wincing slightly when the cat got a little rough, smiling softly when it gentled and cleaned her wounds.
My mind screamed with yearning.
I too have bitten into that sinfully angelic skin. I have tasted the maddening elixir of her blood, once by force, once by gift. During the gift, I had cradled that same wrist to my own mouth, my tongue teasing along the creamy texture of her skin as she fed me. At that time, I had also prayed for her other hand to slip into my hair, holding me to her, petting me with acceptance for my ways, just as she did that damn cat.
I am disgusted with myself. In all of my considerable existence, I have never required the good opinion of my prey. Whether they gave themselves willingly or not, their terror or adulation was of no importance to me. Their blood—only their blood—was my concern. Now, an angel with liquid paradise running through her veins sat not twenty feet away and all I can think about is the way she looked at fucking Compton whenever she reached for his hand.
I want that look for myself. I want to own that expression on her lovely face. I want that kiss in my office and the feel of her warm hands sliding up my shoulders in a desperate search for anchorage as she returned that kiss for all she was worth. I want the gift of her blood, thrilling me with the knowledge that she wants me to drink it. Without her consent—without her love—the blood that is superior to all others would turn to ash in my mouth.
I want her to awaken me at sunset with a kiss and a smile, pulling at my arms. “Come on,” she’d whisper playfully, tilting her head to offer me an early dinner. I’d feed from her gently. Always, I would feed from her gently. She’d pull me outside onto the roof, my heels dragging with the instinct to resist, but the rest of me trusting her implicitly. She’d drag me into the orange-yellow light of the setting sun, her blood protecting me for the three short minutes it took to watch it dip below the rather flat Louisiana horizon.
And she’d hold me.
Watching a sight that I hadn’t witnessed for almost half a million nights, my Fae would loop her arms around my waist and sigh, wanting me close. Wanting me happy.
I looked back through her window. She was closing her book and setting it on the nightstand. With one last, loving stroke, she picked up her tabby cat and moved it to her side before slipping down into the depths of her sheets. The lamp went out. I heard her sigh in the darkness.
“Goodnight, Eric,” she whispered.
She’d seen me. How could she possibly have seen me?
I jolted, nearly falling from my hovering perch. I squinted, my night vision zeroing in on her. I could make out her face perfectly in the black. She wasn’t looking at me. She didn’t seem to sense me at all. Instead, she reached over and gave that lucky fucking cat one last stroke down its back.
“Good boy,” she cooed at him.
And I realized.
My fangs dropped in ecstasy and my tongue slid across them in pure anticipation.
That creature of fang and claw, who bit his mistress with as much adoration as he did when he kissed her with his rough little tongue, had my name. He slept in my future place in her bed. He kept her heart warm and healing until she was ready to risk it with his namesake. She’d adopted an animal who couldn’t help but bite, who couldn’t help but love, and she’d seen me in its nature.
My eyes rolled at the inevitability of us. Soon. Soon I’d have her.
My angel. My Fae. My Sookie.