Sookie’s voice startled the both of us. I looked over and found my timid human pet had vanished and regular Sookie Stackhouse and joined the conversation. She glared at Domingo like a disapproving school marm would a sassing child. My sense of caution was momentarily eclipsed by amusement.
Domingo blinked. “You are to come with me, Miss Stackhouse. I’m afraid it’s non-negotiable.”
“Like hell it isn’t,” she replied tartly. “I’m not going anywhere, least of all with you.”
“Sheriff,” he spoke to me directly. “You will make her comply.”
Sookie snorted in disbelief. “Don’t talk to him like he’s my pimp. What the hell does the Authority even want with me?”
I smiled slightly and returned Domingo’s stare. “She asks a fair question. Why do you need her?”
“This concerns the recent events in Mississippi. We have questions.”
“And we have time,” Sookie retorted. “Ask away.”
“This is not the appropriate venue. And there are those above me who wish to do the asking,” he said in a reprimanding tone.
Sookie sat back and crossed her arms. This was the woman I loved. Brave to the point of shocking recklessness. “Well, they’re welcome to swing by anytime. Meanwhile, I’m staying with Sheriff Northman.”
“I’m afraid that’s true,” I offered him with insincere apology. “Sookie is my bonded companion. She may not leave my side without my permission, and I’m disinclined to give it. I’ve heard no reasons to warrant her removal.”
“When it comes to the Authority, your permission is moot,” Domingo was getting fractionally angrier. “I’m not a local royal interested in annexing your blood supply. Serious allegations have surfaced regarding this woman. Certain…abilities…have been witnessed. She must yield to our investigation.”
“Horse puck, I must,” Sookie planted her elbows on the table, looking furious and scandalized and wondrously willful. “I’m a human. I don’t recognize your authority over me. If I’ve broken any laws, call the Shreveport police and have them arrest me. Then tell them whatever bullshit allegations you have. But lay a finger on me, I’ll call them myself and have you taken in for assault.”
Glorious creature, my Fae. I chuckled and took her hand consolingly. “There there, beloved,” I pretended to mollify her, not giving a damn if it worked or not. “No one’s going to take you against your will.” I looked pointedly at the official. “Are they?”
Domingo glared at us. “These alleged abilities of yours would negate your human status, child,” he pointed out.
She huffed primly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But even if I have whatever abilities you think I’ve got, I’m still not vampire. I still claim diplomatic immunity.”
Domingo’s eyes widened. Deep in their inky depths, I believed I detected a spark of mirth. “Diplomatic immunity?”
“Yes,” she pushed through her insecurity at using such a loaded term. “And no foolin’. You try anything, and not only am I calling the cops, I’m calling the AVL and the local news stations. You can drag me kicking and screaming to your creepy vampire lair on live television. I’ll make it my business to give you a shit storm, sir. Don’t think I won’t.”
I met this Sookie once, not so long ago. Bratty and shrill and so full of naive righteousness, she could astonish a whole room with her balls. It amused me then, it enchanted me now. I gave Domingo a raised brow of regret. What could I say? My disrespectful human had a point. Technically, they had no legal claims to her. My bond could be bypassed, but my stubborn human was squarely rooted to the floor. The only option they had left was abduction. And while I knew that was the next inevitable step, she had ingeniously bought us some time. There was no way for him to take her in this human/vampire setting.
I rose from my bench and ushered Sookie up to stand beside me. “I trust if you have any further inquiries, you know you’re welcome any time,” I offered magnanimously.
Domingo rose as well, staring coldly. “We have more to discuss. Your own involvement is under scrutiny.”
“And I’m happy to comply,” I said coolly. “However you’ve caught us at an inopportune time. Would you care to return tomorrow evening?”
He stared a moment longer before dropping his gaze to meet Sookie’s. She stood her ground and stared back. One thing about Sookie, she found our rudeness far more appalling than our violence. This official hadn’t met her high standards of etiquette and she was blasting him with her scathing, Southern disapproval.
“You will both make yourselves available tomorrow night,” Domingo announced. With that, he turned and strode towards the door.
Sookie let out a gusty exhalation and relaxed beside me. “Jerk,” she mumbled.
I pulled her into me and dipped my head to hers. “What did I say about speaking only when spoken to?” I asked kindly.
She pulled a strange combination of a scowl and a smirk and snitted, “You said so, but I distinctly felt your consent to let me improvise if things got hairy.”
I gripped her chin, grinning. “I most certainly did not.”
“You dare to question me?”
“You dare to doubt that I’d question you?”
I crushed my lips into hers, cupping her face, smothering her with my delight and exasperation. She fought my dominance, gripping my shoulders, pushing up into my kiss and forcing her way into my mouth. Her tongue continued to wordlessly argue with mine. I felt the prickling sensation of my fangs wanting to drop. I stayed them. She would not seduce me. I forbade it. I kept my human teeth firmly in place as I nipped at her lower lip, pulling it into my mouth and sucking it firmly. She moaned in the din of my noisy bar, the press of other people totally forgotten.
“Bad…” she whimpered against me. “Bad idea.” I slid my hands down her enticing dress, squeezing her breasts. I liked this fabric. I would tell Pam to buy more things made with it. I found goosebumps on her arms. The chill in the air had tempered her scent during our meeting, but only slightly. I could tell Domingo and every vamp in my bar could smell her overwhelming Fae sweetness. My attempts to fuck her tame had dulled the urgency in her scent, but not the attractiveness. It was testament to her irresistibility that my own proprietary imprint on her did nothing to dissuade them. She still turned every head. Her visit to Faery and her Fae bond to me had no doubt increased its potency.
It was obvious. She wasn’t completely human. Her scent enlightened everyone to that fact.
And she was right. I was kissing her. Groping her. In the middle of a vampire bar. I was igniting that flame after lecturing her to think chastely. She was aroused again. Mewling and sliding against me.
I yanked her to me, asserting my ownership in front of this pathetic competition. I felt their eyes licking up her legs and along the pretty dress I’d bought her.
“Mine,” I growled into her mouth.
“Prove it,” she challenged breathlessly, tugging my neckline low and biting my chest.
I was furious that despite everything, I still felt the urge to oblige her. It was madness. The vamp interest in her, whether Authority or loser club hoppers, compelled me to bite and fuck her in front of the largest possible audience. I didn’t need to prove it so viscerally, so why did it torment me so? On top of everything, she’d called me her husband. I was about to remind her of the fact when Pam materialized at our side. Sookie’s side of our bond wailed in annoyance, but she wordlessly peeled off me.
“What?” I barked at Pam.
“Ahem,” she replied, bored. “Your ‘other’ guests, Eric?”
The weres in the basement. Fuck. I’d forgotten all about them. Grudgingly, I pulled my hands away from my drug of choice. “Anything I should know before I see them?”
“They’re unhappy,” Pam deadpanned. “They also lack piquancy.”
“How much did you drain?”
“Enough to leave them lucid, but unable to shift.”
I turned to Sookie. She was right, my touching her had been a bad idea. She was advertising unnaturally intoxicating sex. Not wanting to excite her further, I brushed my knuckles against her cheek only. “Forgive my lapse. I need you to read the weres. Can you calm yourself again?”
She bit her lip sheepishly. “Am I that noticeable?”
“Darling,” I responded, “You are pure narcotic.”
She looked embarrassed, dipping her chin. “Can I have an ice cube?” she asked without looking up.
Pam was gone and back in a blink, holding the cube delicately between two fingers. Sookie took it and mumbled a thank-you before leaning into me and discreetly reaching under her dress. She gasped. As did I. She’d nestled the cube between her folds, shocking her body into passivity. I felt her startle. I also went rigid with lust watching her douse her own arousal in such a stark method. Her scent weakened. She shivered as ice and AC battered her from different fronts. Her hand fell away from her thighs. My child clucked her tongue in approval. Pam always did like a show. I held Sookie to me and escorted her to the basement door. I would address her erotic tactics later.
In the end, it took less work than I’d anticipated. A few broken ribs. I few well-aimed strikes. A few bites, though none were followed through with drinking. As I’d told Sookie, not only would I abstain from other blood, the very taste of others now repulsed me. As I sank my fangs into their necks to show them I was serious, their colorless taste put me in mind of arsenic, not food. So I simply tore at them without swallowing and tossed them to the floor. I spat for good measure. Non-Sookie blood was truly repellent shit.
I kept looking over at her, silently asking if she was reading anything valuable. She bit her lips and jutted her head at the youngest of the men writhing on the concrete. He was ready to talk. I picked him up and placed him on a stool, facing the others.
“Now,” I began softly. “You answer my questions and I might not kill all three of you.”
The twentysomething were sniffed back his own blood and stayed slumped forward, not looking at me. “Fantastic,” I confirmed. I ripped his head up by his hair and aimed it at Sookie. “See the pretty lady? You need to tell me who you work for and why they want her.”
“We don’t work-,”
I slammed him down into the concrete and flipped him back up onto the stool. He howled as his facial bones crunched into the unforgiving surface. “Bad dog,” I chided. “Who you work for. Why they want her.”
I sensed Sookie wince at my harshness. I willed my desire for forbearance into her. With weres, there was no other way. They rarely thought passed their aggression and didn’t respond to cerebral forms of coercion. Blood and broken bones. That’s what it took. I shook him again. “The next one paints my floor with your brain.”
He spat blood in impotent fury. “The queen,” he gurgled quietly.
The other two dogs growled warningly at him, but I stared them down until they silenced.
I pet him ironically with my other hand. “Sophie Anne. Interesting. She doesn’t employ weres, little dog. Why did she hire you?”
“She needed day walkers,” he muttered. “She wants the girl.”
“She heard rumors.”
“You’re boring me, little dog. Don’t be frugal.”
“Edgington’s weres. The queen heard that the girl attacked his weres with strange light in her hands. And she heard Edgington day walked after drinking her blood.”
I looked at Sookie. Her brow was furrowed in concentration. She met my eyes and nodded. The were was being truthful. Apparently Sophie Anne missed the part of the rumor that explained how Edgington and I nearly cooked after drinking from Sookie. Stupid woman.
“The queen is a fugitive,” I replied. “The Authority wants her for fraud and her involvement in the Magister’s death. Why would she risk exposure looking for this girl?”
The young were made a noise of annoyance. “The queen’s an idiot,” he retorted. “Monkey see, monkey want. She also keeps a vampire with her that she wants to punish by annexing the girl.”
“The vampire’s name?”
“Compton. Bill Compton. She has reinserted him back into her court after he failed to procure Stackhouse. She’s furious about his insubordination. She wants the girl for her powers, but also to discipline him. She plans to bond to the girl and make him watch.”
A growl issued deep from my chest and the weres cowered at the sound. Sookie’s eyes were enormous. Slowly, she nodded again. All true. The queen had just signed her own death warrant. I planned to use every torture method I’d learned in the 1400s; each one a gift of tribute to her memorable reign. I seethed with pleasure. Sookie and I were bonded, there was nothing she could do. And when I eventually felt merciful enough to let her die from her injuries, I would tell her as much.
The young were looked up through his bloodied hair, eyeing Sookie intently as she stood in the corner. “It’s true,” he grunted through his loose teeth. “I can smell it. You really are a fairy. The Mississippi weres were ri- ,”
His death met him instantly. His neck crunched like a soda can in my fist as I propelled him across the room. The other two had no time to react. I dispatched them in a blur of movement that had Sookie gasping in horror.
Blood pumped steadily from their corpses as I halted amid the carnage. Dripping with its offensiveness, I backed away from her. My clothes, my skin, my hair was matted with it. As much as I wanted to reach for her and ease her racing heart, I would not contaminate her with their filth.
“Jesus, save us. I didn’t want this,” she spoke softly, looking at the mess with a mournful stare.
I pulled off my t-shirt and wiped my face with it. “I know,” I replied. “I did not want it for you, either.” I wiped my forearms. “You understand that I had to.”
She pulled her gaze from their bodies and looked at me. “Yes,” she nodded. “They knew. They knew and you’re protecting me.”
I nodded with her. “And there will be more. Sophie Anne is an unthinking bitch. Anyone she’s told will meet the same fate. Her first.”
Sorrow filled her normally bright features. She jutted her chin and looked at me squarely. “Thank you. Thank you for your protection. I’d be dead ten times over without it.”
I smiled at her formal gratitude. “You would have had it, with or without your consent.”
She smiled sadly. “Because you love me so much?”
“Because I love you so much.” The words felt odd in my mouth, but the sentiment was correct.
She gestured to the bodies. “What now? More fresh graves to bury them on top of?”
I rubbed my bloody shirt briskly through my hair. “Pam will tend to this. Right now, I want to get you home.” I paused and gave her a meaningful look. “My home.”
Her face pinched, a bitter pill being swallowed. “I can’t believe this.”
“Your home isn’t safe, lover. I can’t risk you going back.”
“No, I know,” she looked up at me, eyes shining with building tears. They stung me like silver to the gut. “I mean everything else. Sophie Anne. Bill. Those stupid wolves.” She looked down at her hands and flexed them, open and closed. “I’d forgotten that I’d shot at them when they kidnapped me. I should have known they’d talk.”
She looked at me plaintively over the bodies. “Hold me?”
I was at her side in an instant. “I’ll ruin your dress,” I reached out to finger her jaw with my bloodied fingers.
She snorted softly. “Blood. Rips. It was doomed anyway.” She looked at my filthy state before shyly nuzzling into my chest. “You’re hard on a girl’s wardrobe, period.”
I chuckled and folded her up in my arms. Sticky blood pressed into every inch of her. She sighed as if I’d covered her in rose petals. “Fuck the dress.” Her whisper made me smile.
I flew her home and bathed her. Blood circled the shower drain as I held her up and made love to her slippery, soapy body. She washed me just a thoroughly, massaging away every speck of gore. Our minds and bodies operated separately, one concentrating on cleanliness and the comfort of soft caresses while the other gorged steadily on pleasure. Sex was so innate between us now, it was fast becoming our natural state.
Her dark eyes never wavered until the end when she climaxed in my arms. Still gripping her, I dropped to my knees, pistoning into her tight heat. Water pelted us from above as I drove in a final time and came screaming between her fluttering walls.
I showed her the acres of clothing I’d bought for her in my closet. She rolled her eyes sweetly and chose a simple yellow dress from its bounty. “Sugar daddy,” she muttered as she put it on.
I was impatient for our new ritual.
I flew us up to my roof and made her sit in my lap as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. From my superior view, we could see the entire valley below light up. Sookie let her head fall back against my shoulder, relaxing completely.
She didn’t look back to inspect me once for burns.
Her gift was still in effect. Ever in awe of her Choosing me, I rewarded her with another orgasm right there on the roof tiles, my fingers scissoring deep in her pussy as my thumb assaulted her clit.
Sookie had many expressions I cherished, but none rivaled how she looked when she came for me in the sunshine.
When she finally calmed down, I gave the dawn one last, lingering stare before I set us down in the backyard.
She smiled when I took her hands and pressed them into my chest.
“More?” she asked disbelievingly. “God, you’re insatiable.”
I smiled and nodded. “More. But not the sweet kind, Sookie.”
She frowned, her hands tensing on my grey t-shirt. “What do you mean?”
“More weres are in your woods, my love. At least two vampire factions are hunting you. I need to know you can repel them.” I bent forward, using my height to overwhelm her. “Let us train. Shoot me.”
She arched her neck to take me in, but didn’t retreat from my looming frame. She never did.
“What if I can’t? Shoot you, I mean.”
“You must try. We must ascertain if your Light is simply a cannonball, or something more incapacitating.”
I didn’t give her time to consider. I shoved back from her. I let my fangs click loudly and let my predatory glare slide over her pretty little dress. Her eyes went round and she instinctively bent her knees, a defensive stance.
I hissed at her, full of menace.
Her head went up. Her hands turned to fire at her sides.
My instincts howled in recognition. A Fae. A vampire’s oldest foe.
Searing light shot through her dark eyes. Vampire, they identified. A abhorrent enemy.
I began to circle her. She sidestepped, counter-circling me.
“Shoot me,” I growled threateningly.
She jutted her chin, her bare feet sliding carefully along the grass. Her brow went up. “Make me.”
I roared, loving her brass, and lunged her at. She never saw me move and before she could gasp, my blunt teeth had her by the throat from behind. I bit her gently, not breaking the skin. “Boo.”
I was back out in front of her, resuming our circle. She put her glowing hand to her neck, shaking slightly. “No fair. I wasn’t ready.”
“You never will be if you wait. We’re too fast, sweet one. When you can see me, shoot me. It’s the only chance you’ll get.”
Her hands intensified. “This’ll hurt,” she taunted, growing braver.
“Ha,” I goaded. “All I hear is talk.”
Light burst from her hands, two blinding orbs rocketing straight towards me. They hit squarely in my chest. Sweet warmth detonated inside me and I screamed in unbearable pleasure as they dropped me to my knees.
“Shit!” I heard her mutter from my delirium. “Wrong kind.”
I shook my head hard, readjusting my blinded eyes. Sookie’s love radiated within me, more beautiful than the sun that was slowly rising above our heads.
I chuckled, unsteadily getting to my feet. “Sweet girl,” I crooned at her, the Light demanding I sweep her up and make love to her for weeks without rest. “Never shoot anyone with that kind.”
She screwed her face up and looked at her hands accusingly. “But I tried! I got all mad at you and everything! I even thought about all the times you were cruel and horrible. Even when you let Russell bite me. It didn’t work!”
Pushing those unpleasant images away, I came to her slowly and gently turned her towards a large sycamore on the far end of my property.
“Shoot it, then.”
Her hands were still at the ready, their lovely yellow glow getting hotter at my instructions. I held her from behind, lining up her target over her head.
“You’re in danger. I’ve met my true death. I cannot help you. You must shoot.”
She gasped softly. “Don’t say that.”
“I’m gone, lover. Save yourself.”
“No!” Our bond filled with her rage.
I lowered to her ear. “I’ll never hold you again. Never bask in your love. I’ve lost you. They’ve killed me in their hunger to get you.”
Larger, angrier orbs flew from her hands at a stunning speed. Even from my position, I could feel their fury. They launched across my lawn and torpedoed into that ancient tree. It splintered at the trunk, wet chunks of living wood exploding in all directions. The tree wailed as its weight lost all support and collapsed backward into the forest behind it, snapping and filling the air with the smell of lightning contact.
Sookie sobbed and turned into me, clawing at my shirt in her desperation to get closer. “Don’t you dare leave me,” she commanded furiously.
I watched as the sycamore broke through the smaller foliage and finally crashed onto the forest floor. I held my Fae, rocking her gently, as I marveled at her destruction.
“Never,” I swore into her hair, kissing it soundly. “I’ll never leave you. Not even in death.”
I set her away from me, thumbing her tears away. I smiled gently. “That was magnificent. I need you to try and hit me with the same.”
“But…” she gestured to the poor tree behind us. “It worked. I obviously didn’t shoot it with love.”
“A tree is not a vampire. And the were you shot in Mississippi lived, did he not?”
She sniffed and nodded grudgingly. “Yeah. He lived.”
“So,” I stroked her cheeks and hair reassuringly. “I still need to assess your power against them. Try again, lover.”
She snorted and shooed my hands away. “Talking to me like that doesn’t help.”
My brow arched. “Very well. Try again…bitch?”
A startled laugh broke through her waning tears. She chuckled, wiping her face. “Cute.”
I backed away. Instead of assuming a threatening pose, I merely stood. “Focus on how you felt just now. Don’t look at me. Just feel and shoot.”
She nodded and closed her eyes. Her hands swirled with power, ready for her command.
“They’re coming for you,” I said softly. “They’ll separate us. They’ll imprison you. They’ll kill me.”
It was the truth. If I was lucky, they would just stop with just my death and remember not to drain her dry. It was a big ask, though. She could easily cause a feeding frenzy.
Her Light amplified. Again, I felt the heat of rage rather than the warmth of love in it. Very encouraging.
“Save yourself,” I entreated. “Shoot.”
Another set of livid spheres broke from her and slammed into me. I was thrown back twenty feet, clutching my chest as liquid agony filled every nerve. My throat closed up against my scream. I was choking on it.
Sookie was at my side in an instant. She pulled my head into her lap, stroking my hair. “Eric?”
I coughed, fighting for air I didn’t need. I tried to lift my arms to encircle her, but they were dead weights at my side. My eyesight lost its sharpness and her image rippled before me in blurred lines. She had delivered one hell of a blow. Despite my acute pain, I was pleased.
“I’m well,” I grated out. “It’s all right.”
She was equal parts of relief and annoyance. She palmed my cheek, looking at me intently. “So then it’s not that strong?”
I tried to sit up, but fell back against her thighs. I gave up and settled there, rubbing the back of my head into her lap. “It’s strong,” I croaked. “Very strong. I’m disoriented and weaker.” I smiled at her. “But I’ll live.”
She smiled back and took my hand, watching it closely.
“Do you see something, lover?”
She shook her head. “Just making sure. I don’t want the fairy Powers That Be to think I’ve broken up with you. They might take your UV protection away if they do.”
I closed my eyes, giving myself over to her attention. “Let me know if I begin to fry.”
She swatted my hand gently before she rearranged herself more comfortably on the grass. I lay across her legs, letting the sun beat down onto my face. She still had my hand. I could feel her eyes on it as she ran her fingers from my wrist to my bicep where my sleeve began.
I remembered her cat sat like this. I purred softly, just another creature in love with her touch.
She gave a small, exhaling laugh. “Good kitty,” she praised me.
I cracked an eye and looked at her. “Shall I have him brought here?”
My jangled nerves sang with pleasure as her fingers danced over my skin. She cocked her head. “You mean kitty Eric?”
“Yes. I assume he needs food.”
She bit her lips. “Of course. God, I’m such an idiot. I forgot all about him.”
I turned on my side and suddenly I was exactly as I’d wished to be the night I’d watched her through her window. My head in her lap, looking up into her lovely face. Her fingers caressing me, absently loving me for everything that I was. My purr deepened.
“I’ll have him fetched today. Along with all of his things.”
She smiled gratefully. “My two Erics under one roof. Nothing but cuteness and pointy teeth.”
I turned my face into her stomach and inhaled. She smelled so good I could barely stand it. I meant to get up and call my driver to collect her pet. I meant to get up and continue with our training. I needed to see how accurate her shots were at a moving target. I needed to gauge how quickly she could fire again. I needed to see if they taxed her, or if she had an endless supply. I needed to stand up and check my own abilities to see if I’d sustained any lasting damage.
I needed to stand up.
Instead, I curled up against her, my head buried under her breasts. Her hands continued to comb through my hair.
And I purred.