I had showered again and changed into a light blue summer dress, one that I’d never worn in front of him before. It had a pretty sweetheart bust and ended just above my knees. It was delicate and innocent and I knew now that those things turned him on to no end. I fixed my hair at my bathroom counter, noting that all of my perfume bottles and scented lotions were missing from the counter top. It was obvious he’d removed them. I didn’t need to be told that I wasn’t to wear them anymore. They covered my scent. My soaps were fine, but Eric didn’t want any chemicals on my skin when he touched me.
I bit back a shiver of erotic pleasure, angry at myself for letting him dictate my hygiene. But I couldn’t help it. Honestly, how mad can a woman get when her man loved her for what she was? Eric thought I smelled better than anything Donna Karen could concoct in her fancy perfume laboratory. That was high praise. So I bid my perfume-wearing days farewell and continued fixing my hair until it curled loosely around my shoulders.
It was three fifteen when I heard someone at my door.
He had also showered and changed.
He wore his usual dark jeans and one of his zillion wife beaters. (Maybe the one he took from me, I couldn’t tell.) The pimpishly low neckline showed me that all of my red smooch prints had washed away. No matter. Plenty more where they came from. His strange little talisman hung from his neck as usual. His leather jacket completed the ensemble as he stood in my door frame. One of the perks of being a flying vampire. He didn’t have to deal with my killer silver fence. I smirked at his obscured figure as I opened my door. He’d decided to be a gentleman and knock, for some reason. I thought that odd, considering he’d nearly blasted that same door off its hinges not six hours ago.
I smiled up at him, holding it wide open.
He smiled back, that soft, knowing smile that I was quickly starting to regard as the Sookie Smile.
“Invite me in,” he drawled lazily.
I chortled and crossed my arms. “You already have an invitation.”
His smile widened and I knew he was about to say something irritating. “Show me how much you enjoy my entry.”
The inappropriate, double entendre gall of him. I blushed straight to my hairline and shoved to one side. “Just get your ass in here,” I huffed gracelessly.
He snorted imperiously and strode in like he owned the place. I barely had the door shut before I was whirled around and pulled up to his annoyingly pretty mouth. “I love how you defy me,” he whispered, and kissed me like he hadn’t seen me in years. To make a point, I struggled against him for a very respectable three seconds before I melted into him and kissed him back shamelessly. We stood that way from some time. His lips were warm. His chest and arms were warm. My fingers plunged into his hair and I pulled his head back, trailing lines of wet, tonguing kisses down his scratchy throat.
His vampiric growl told me that he liked them. A lot.
“We need to talk,” he grunted unwillingly.
“Later,” I answered distractedly, kissing deep into the V of his necklace.
“No, Sookie. Now.”
I made a whining noise of disapproval and ignored him. “I love when you’ve been flying,” I told him. “You smell like rain water afterward.”
His arms tightened around me and his growl deepened. His nose buried itself in my hair. I dragged my teeth over the flawless skin of his upper chest and hummed happily.
“Vacker,” I murmured into him.
Thank God for Google and its English to Swedish dictionary. I even listened to its audio, to make sure I hit my ‘a’ and rolled my ‘r’ properly. With that one word, I’d called him beautiful. Glorious. Handsome. Sweet. And clever.
He gripped my upper arms and pushed me back from him, looking at me hard. I was getting used to these drilling stares. They meant I’d done something that astonished the hell out of him. I continued to smile my happy smile.
He dropped his forehead to mine, his eyes slipping closed. “Min hjärta,” he muttered back.
I giggled and shook my head. “Sorry. I’ve used up all my Swedish. What’s yours mean?”
His eyes slid back opened and drown me in contemplative blue. He sighed. “No matter. We need to talk. You won’t distract me with pretty words,” he leaned in and took another kiss from me. “I don’t care how fucking sexy your accent in Swedish is.”
I grinned and pushed away from him. “Fine. Spoilsport.” I walked over to my sofa and sat primly, my dress falling over my firmly-shut knees. “What’s new?”
He walked over to one of my chairs opposite the sofa and settled deep into its cushions. No cuddling, then. He looked troubled as he spoke. “The fence and shutters are stopgap measures. I’ve ordered some of the weres and vamps looking for you to be brought to me.”
I nodded slowly. “Do you know why they’re looking for me? Or for whom they work for?”
“Not at present. But I’m sure they’ll be forthcoming when I interrogate them tomorrow night.”
I inhaled slowly and sat up a little straighter. “Will you torture them?”
“Yes. If need be.”
A very unchristian thrill of excitement gored me. This was Eric protecting me. This was Eric more than happy to kill for me. Bad people wanted to hurt me. I knew he could rip their throats out and roar with victory at their death. A tiny part of me wanted to encourage his attack dog tendencies. But the bigger part of me spoke up.
“I can’t help the vampire, but I want to read the weres while you question them. I…” I bit my lip, “…I don’t want them killed.”
“They’d kill you in a second.”
“Exactly. They’re animals. I’m not.”
“All the more reason to put them down.”
I shook my head and crossed the small space between us. I straddled his lap, cupping his throat and eyeing him softly. “Please,” I asked him. “Please. Let me help you. Let’s do this together.”
He didn’t respond to my intimate hold on him. He simply stared up at me. His flight had messed up his hair again. A strand of wheat hung boyishly in front of those baby blues. I only meant to push it aside, but my fingers crept deeper, burrowing into the wheat. I felt his resolve weaken considerably through our bond, despite his stony expression. He just couldn’t handle it when I played with his hair.
I smiled when I felt his annoyance at my discovery. With my backstage pass into his head, he couldn’t hide from me anymore. I fanned my other set of fingers into his hair and scratched his scalp gently. His eyes fluttered. I bent to kiss his forehead. “I promise not to abuse this,” I assured him. “If you promise to let me help you tomorrow night.”
His head tipped back into my hands and I knew I had him. “Very well. Just don’t stop.”
I laughed and settled deeper into his lap, massaging his head and introducing a new, sunnier topic of conversation.
He’d insisted he check the perimeter. Twice. He insisted I check my awareness to see if weres or no-good humans were lurking in my woods. I came up empty. As dawn approached, he grew more and more restless, moving through my home, checking locks and structural strength. I couldn’t get him to sit still. The sun was hunting him.
He wasn’t even aware of it. His instincts were so ingrained with avoiding dawn that my request for him to stay awake with me was chafing them badly. They were telling him to find shelter. I was telling him to stay put. Needless to say, he felt conflicted.
I took his hand to still him as he paced by me. Weak, pre-dawn light was creeping into my windows, alighting on his pale, furrowed face. “Trust me,” I told him. “I just need to see if this works.”
“I do trust you, lover,” he kissed my hand. “But we’ve already established that your blood will not protect me for long. A few minutes, at best. But,” he caught me and brought me to him. “I do wish to see the sunrise with you. I had imagined that you would want—,” he stopped himself. I smiled reassuringly.
I hadn’t explained fully what I was thinking. Maybe because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Maybe because I didn’t want to introduce such a dangerous idea into the world. But my visit with the Fae had made it fairly clear; my vampire had been gifted with Light. My Light. There were only so many ways to interpret that. Him at my side, in darkness or light.
I mean, come on.
What else could it be? I had inoculated him. He was immune to sunlight. Not just for a few minutes, but for…well…maybe indefinitely. I got the impression that fairies and vampires don’t exactly treat their bonds like a Vegas wedding, easily broken once everybody sobered up. No. For immortals like them, bonding was a big damn deal. So if my fairy Light had sunk into his body, surely that meant he was now protected, if not forever, then for at least my lifetime. It had to be the case.
I snuggled into him, willing my calm into his mind. “You’ve had more of it now. And with our bond and our consent, who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to stay longer. But if not,” I stroked his back through his jacket, “then at least we’ll see the sunrise together. Then we’ll jump back inside and you can sleep in the basement. Deal?”
His hands found my bare shoulders and crossed over them possessively. “Perhaps I should drink from you now. Just to be sure.”
I shook my head against him. That would ruin my experiment. “Later. I promise. Right now, let’s just try it and see.”
He grunted, but relented. “Very well. Shall we?”
I took his hand and opened the door. I pulled him out onto the porch. The sun was getting stronger; the weak, bluish haze was turning orange. I turned and smiled encouragingly. “Can you put us on the roof?” I suggested.
He wasn’t looking at me. He was eyeing the eastern horizon with unblinking eyes. Orange was tinting his hair. I wasn’t sure how strong the light needed to be to hurt him, but so far, so good. No smoke was rising from him yet.
He nodded and pulled me close. “Yes,” he answered quietly.
We were out of the porch, above the ground and on the roof before I completed my next breath. The tiles slanted harshly under my bare feet. He’d sat us squarely on the apex, straddling it with our legs on either side of the house. “Jeez!” I huffed incredulously. “Not so fast next time! I wanna enjoy it.”
Eric was still riveted to the east, oblivious. He was behind me, I had to crane my head backward to see his faraway gaze. His arms snaked around my waist and pulled me back firmly into him. The light on the roof was even stronger, free of the shade from the trees. I settled back into him and turned east as well. The smallest sliver of the sun had peaked. Direct light shone into our eyes.
This was it. This was the moment of truth.
I took one of his hands from my waist and held it in front of me. Orange-yellow light blasted his alabaster skin. I squinted and zeroed in on it. I tapped our bond. Hell, I mauled it. Looking for pain. Looking for terrible, boiling heat. He felt me and opened his body to me, letting me read his nerve endings, his pain processors. There was nothing so far. He wiggled his fingers and I knew he was watching them as well.
No smoke. No burns.
We held our breath and sat. The sun reached a quarter full. Then a half. Then three-quarters. I didn’t really notice. I only had eyes for his skin.
With his chest and legs pressed into me so tightly, I felt his trembling, faint as it was. I continued to watch his hand for smoke. I wasn’t going to let a few minutes of health cloud my judgment. I gripped his other hand at my waist.
“It’s been so long,” he whispered into my hair. “So very long.”
I nodded, determined to monitor him carefully and let him lose himself in the light, if he wanted to. I kept his hand out in front of me, stroking his long fingers with mine. Aside from his newly acquired warmth, there was no change. Black blisters didn’t appear. Smoke never materialized. I checked my watch. We’d been outside for twenty-three minutes.
I took a shaky breath. The sun was up. Up and out and shining and anti-vampire and lighting up the whole world. From our view, other houses became visible through the treetops. Birds sang their morning howdeedos. The dew on the grass lit up, only to shrink and disappear.
We said nothing. What was there to say? My eyes never left his hand. I had a choke hold on our bond. Eric never moved behind me. He stayed as tightly strung as a wire, his eyes never leaving the sun that had forsaken him for over a thousand years.
Finally, he pulled his hand away and tucked it back around my waist.
“No!” I protested, tugging it. “I need to make sure.”
He held me tighter. For the first time, he looked away from the east and stared down at me. Over my shoulder, I stared back. So pale, my vampire. Sunlight bounced off him like it did my white house. His eyes were bluer. I let myself look at him, dropping the nurse impulses. My eyes felt locked into his.
I felt something surging up in the bond.
It started deep in the recesses of his mind and was barreling towards me at a terrible speed.
“Your gift to me,” he said softly.
I swallowed and nodded. “Looks like.”
The bond roared in my ears. The vampire sat quietly behind me. “I am a day walker again.”
I nodded again, my eyes felt huge. I couldn’t seem to get my eyelids around their huge curve, even in the bright light. “Looks like,” I repeated.
He was splitting my head in half. The sheer intensity of him was so unbearable that I gasped. “Eric,” I entreated. “What is it? Are you okay?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he buried his head into the crook of my neck and shoulder and let our bond erupt spectacularly. He wasn’t okay. He was undone. Dozens of emotions, a thousand times stronger than the human range, broke over me and I moaned. I gripped his head for anchorage as he drown me with disbelief and joy and fear and pride and pure, childlike amazement. Gratitude. Blind possessiveness. Love.
I can’t explain love in human terms. Can you imagine how impossible it is to explain it in vampire magnitude? The love Eric felt for me was devastating. I moaned again, unable to withstand it. It filled my nose and mouth and lungs, there was no breathing around it. I pulled oxygen instinctively. It may as well have been water, for all the good it did.
No wonder he didn’t enjoy using the word. It was far too little.
Eric was killing me with his love. I held him fast and let him. He didn’t speak. Words were beyond useless.
“Baby,” I gasped after a while. “You need to let go.”
He gave a broken gasp against my neck and nodded, pulling back slowly. I panted as our bond eased its hold on me. I groped for his hands and held them up.
Clean as a whistle.
He shifted behind me and I felt his mind fall into a more organized pattern. He was reasserting his rationality. Suddenly my weight felt weird and I realized he was lifting us up, off of the roof. Our feet dangled as we hovered a few feet off the tiles. I reached back and held on by his neck. He had me by the shoulders and waist.
I was hovering above my house in a vampire’s arms in the sunshine. A very strange start to the day, I do declare.
“How do you feel?” I asked. “Is the light draining you at all? Is it harder to fly?”
We rose up and down slowly. Systems check. He spoke clinically. “No. It appears to take the same amount of energy and concentration as it does at night.”
I nodded. “Okay. What now?”
He gripped me and maneuvered over and down, setting us on my lawn. The minute my feet hit grass, I whipped around and looked him over.
I pushed his jacket off his arms. “Show me. I wanna see.”
He complied and slipped it off. More of his pale skin exposed itself to the sun and my scrutiny. I ran my hands over the dense musculature of his biceps and forearms. “Any pain?”
He shook his head, looking slightly dazed, but still in control. “None.”
“What about your eyes?” I couldn’t think of enough questions. I tried to remember what Bill had told me about how the sun affected him. “Can you see clearly? Is it too bright?”
“Strangely, no,” Eric answered. He scanned the house and the forest beyond. Another systems check. “My sight has adjusted. I can see very well.”
“Okay,” I shuddered with worry. “Run for me. Fast as you can.”
He nodded. He seemed to appreciate that I was trying to test if the sun sapped him in any way. He was gone in a blink. I heard to whoosh of air passing me. He was on the other side of me in an instant.
I jumped and put my hands on him again. Probing. “How far?”
I was too preoccupied to be impressed. “And? Anything? Any difference?”
He shook his head. “Morning glories distracted me. I nearly hit a tree. But no. My ability is unchanged.”
He buried his arms under my probing fingers and pulled me into him. Apparently he was done with my medical attentions. I was forced to just hold him, not examine him.
“I haven’t seen a morning glory in a thousand years. They close up at night.”
My lines of inquiry died. I craned my chin up and regarded him with a new thought entirely. Eric Northman, a living piece of antiquity, hadn’t seen a sunlit world in a very long time. Plants behaved differently. So did animals. So did people. There were different smells. Different business hours. Clouds, not stars. Traffic jams. Et cetera et cetera.
This was real. Holy crap, this was actually happening.
I smiled wanly. “Hey,” I said to him. “You’re really here with me. In the sunshine.”
The look he gave me was one I’d never seen before. His face, for the first time, was stripped naked. No arrogance or age gouged at his smooth features. His eyes were wide. His mouth was slightly open. He looked thirty. He looked human. He looked…pure.
“We…” He stopped, unsure of his words. “We need to stay vigilant. This…this may not last.”
“We will,” I smiled sweetly. “But what if it does? How amazing would that be?”
“Very,” he allowed himself to smile back. “Very amazing. Can…can we walk? For a little while?”
He must have been shell-shocked. I can’t remember Eric ever asking for anything. Not like that. I nodded and took his hand, pointing my bare feet toward the gate entrance.
I avoided the cemetery and led us straight into the woods.
We didn’t talk much. I just held his hand and walked alongside him, letting him take in the world. He slung his leather jacket over his other shoulder. I was glad for it. I wanted to continue watching him for any telltale signs of crispiness. But there was none. His bloodless skin rippled over his taut body as he moved, which was very pretty, but it remained impervious to light.
His gaze traveled this way and that. He watched how the sunlight bled through the leaves above us. He listened to the call of North American birds that he’d probably never heard before. He inhaled more than usual, not for air, but for scent. Bugs buzzed and zipped around us. He caught a beetle midair and examined it with fascination as it crawled in the valley of his palm.
Meanwhile, I made my way carefully, watching for stones and twigs. I should have grabbed shoes, but couldn’t really muster up the regret for not doing so. Who cared about shoes? A vampire was walking in the daytime! This was bigger than the moon landing. And I was the only person to see it. You think I’d stop to find shoes?
One hour, twenty-two minutes.
We came to the small creek that ran west of my property. We were pretty deep into the forest now. Not a soul lived out this way. I tugged his hand, indicating that we stop. I wandered over to a grassy bank and sat down, dropping my feet into the running chill.
“Eep,” I squeaked. “Cold.”
Eric sat beside me, staring at the water as it sparkled at us. Lord knows what he was capable of seeing with his superior eyesight. Fish and tadpoles and all sorts, I’d imagine. Stuff that slept in the reeds at night when he was out normally.
I paddled my feet in the water, churning it up, lifting them and watching the drops slide down my ankles.
“It’s a nice day,” I remarked conversationally. Like the worst weather in the world wouldn’t have been just as astounding to him right now.
He looked at me for a long time before pulling me over to him. I understood his silence. I kissed him. Nothing aggressive. I just wanted him to know that I was happy to wait while he processed.
He put his lips to my throat. I tilted back. The idea of feeding him here, now, was so drugging that I moaned softly at his simple kiss.
“You will be hunted,” he murmured, derailing my thoughts. “Every vampire in the world would kill entire armies to get to you. You can grant us daylight, Sookie. The ultimate gift.”
I shook my head and pet him sweetly. “It’s too late,” I replied with certainty. “I gave it to you because I Chose you. It’s not a Cracker Jack prize. This was a one-time offer and it’s yours. I can’t and wouldn’t give it to someone else now.”
His fangs clicked. What an odd sound at seven in the morning.
“Damn skippy, I am.”
He chuckled and nuzzled deeper under my chin. Heat skewered me between my thighs.
“Let me feed you,” I whispered pleadingly.
“I’ve already taken from you today,” he replied. “I will not take more.”
“But I want you to,” I whined prettily. “Gauge how much I can spare, then I want you to drink from me. Slow as you can.”
Eric grunted and put his tongue against my pulse, gauging the strength of my pulse. His arms went around me, weighing me up. “Half a pint,” he reasoned. “You can spare that much. It would take about two days to replenish it.”
“Take it,” I offered, laying his jacket on the grass and turning away from him on my side. “Lay here with me and drink. I want to celebrate.” I looked back at him. “Just do it slowly. Like, hours slowly.”
He smirked slightly and moved to lay down beside me. His long body spooned into mine. His arm went under my neck and held me by the shoulders while his other hand rested on my hip. He analyzed my throat, choosing his target carefully. At last, he placed a kiss over his choice. No major arteries or veins, just a slow, steady tap.
“You are everything.” He bit down. So gently that I was surprised when blood filled his mouth. It hadn’t even felt like he broke the skin. I felt his mouth take a long, lazy tug. The flow was little more than a drip. He sucked just enough to keep the wound open. He had done well. At this rate, he’d take half a pint by noon.
I crooned his name, pleasure washing over me every time he sucked. My head fell into the cradle of his arm, my body lost all tension. The sun bathed my face and I just gave in to being consumed.
My watch was near my face on the ground.
One hour, forty minutes.
His hand had starting rubbing slow, deliberate circles on my hip. My dress rode up slowly with each pass. His body was returning my warmth in equal measure. I felt his erection, rock hard and seeking, pressed against my ass. I reached back and cupped his hip, languidly pulling him forward just as I pushed back.
“Errric,” I drew out sweetly. Another Swedish dictionary pronunciation. Again, I rolled my ‘r’ and landed hard on my ‘c’. It sounded so sultry and exotic. I preferred it to the lazy, American rendition.
He broke suction and hissed warningly, “You risk my control, Sookie. Don’t provoke me.”
I chuckled and rubbed into his erection harder. “Are you saying you’re incapable of making love gently?”
“Very few feelings I have for you are gentle.”
I turned my head. My blood trickled down my neck as I did. I looked at him and smiled as my fingers worked nimbly on his belt buckle. “Then focus on the one or two of them that are.”
I had his pants open and his heavy shaft spilled into my hand. I moaned and pumped him behind me. God, it felt so good to be with him like this.
His eyes slammed shut and he growled his rough animal growl, thrusting into my fist. “I haven’t made love in the daylight for a thousand years, lover.”
I giggled and tightened my grip. “I’ve never done it at all. I’m pretty sure the mechanics are the same.”
My dress was climbing up my hip into his fist. Suddenly my rear was bare. I hadn’t bothered with panties. Eric’s throaty rumbling grew louder at the discovery. He fingered me carefully from behind, sliding them into my folds, listening to my gasps as he touched me so privately.
I shook my head, my eyes closed in ecstasy as I rode his fingertips. “I’ve never been with a human man. No sex in the sun for me.”
He withdrew his fingers and I sobbed as his cock filled their place, sliding slowly, deeply, until I had all of him. Moving his hips at an agonizing tempo, he lowered to my neck once again.
“Then I shall be your first.” He resumed feeding. His hips moved slightly faster than his mouth. One pull on my throat, three gentle pushes into my core. One pull, three pushes. Over and over and over. I lost my mind to him. I was moaning nonstop now. His name. God’s name. Pretty pleases. Don’t you dare stops. Varying combinations of the above.
He broke suction again to lean forward and slash his forearm that had been holding my shoulders. Blood ran freely down his bare arm. “Take my blood, Sookie. Bond with me.”
I rolled my hips in time to his as I looked over my shoulder. “The third bond,” I whispered to him. “You’ll never be rid of me after this, Eric. Are you sure?”
He caught my teasing tone and smiled beautifully. Still mostly clothed, he pulled us even tighter together. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled something out and grabbed my hand. “Drink from me now. Give yourself to me completely.”
Smiling, I leaned into his arm and sealed my lips to his wound just as he took a few final sips at my neck. Our connection exploded in our heads, tightening, expanding, boiling over into utter chaos. My body clenched him viciously as I came screaming against his bloody skin. He slammed home in me and howled like a beast, rutting frantically, pumping until he was bone dry.
Delirious, we called each other’s names, clutching other as we rode out our climax. To any accidental observer, we were just to young people making love in the woods. Perfectly natural. They certainly wouldn’t see the supernatural occurrence that had just fused us together for eternity.
Somewhere in the deluge, a ruby appeared on my left ring finger, glinting brightly in the light.
To the vampire, the Fae and the human worlds, I was now totally and unconditionally his.