He made us get up eventually. I felt in his mind that he could have happily spent the day nuzzling my stomach while I fussed over him, but his caution won out in the end. He pulled us to our feet and made me fight him again. I hated every second of it. In order to shoot him with aggression instead of desire, I had to conjure every terrifying thought I could imagine about losing him. I imagined the sun pulled a fast one and roasted him before he could go to ground. I shot him. I imagined that the Authority wrapped him in silver and dropped him to the bottom of the ocean. I shot him. I saw him overwhelmed by weres. I saw him staked by a deranged fanger. I saw him shielding me from all the badness in the world, only to fall in a bloody puddle at my feet. And shot him and shot him and shot him.
The rounds took their toll on him, too.
Every hit I managed to nail him with seemed to drain him, little by little. He got slower. He got sloppier. He was pulling every punch and if a vampire with his skill attacked me for real, I’d be dead before I hit the floor. Still, I was encouraged to see that given the chance, I could hold my own. Especially since most vamps were a fraction of his age. I figured my powers might work better on younger ones.
At one point, he slowed and I caught a glimpse of real weariness in his eyes. Without meaning to, my focus shifted to how much I ached for him instead of how enraged I would be if I lost him. Light shot from my hands before he could react. It burrowed into his body instead of blasting him backwards and he roared as my love shot him straight through with new energy.
“What did I say?!” he bellowed at me, his eyes lit up like blue fire.
Uh-oh. The wrong Light again. Instead of pain, I’d infused him with sexy thoughts and vigor. And boy was he mad about it.
Even from across the yard, his inflamed lust struck me and I shrieked like a little girl. Teasingly, stupidly, I turned tail and ran. I’d disobeyed and distracted him again. I knew from his face I was in trouble.
I was surprised that I made it as far as I did. Ten feet, maybe, before I was tackled from behind and dragged to the ground. Squealing and screaming, I fought against his hold as he ripped his jeans and his wrist wide open. Coating his massive erection in his own dripping blood, Eric shoved me to my hands and knees, yanked my yellow dress up, and plunged deep.
White light exploded in my eyes. I screamed. Ecstasy tore me in half as my lover pistoned brutally behind me. Our bond was a mess of involuntary instinct. He had to fuck me. I’d shot him with one too many love darts to give him any choice in the matter. Gripping my hips, he pumped ruthlessly, cursing my name between his clenched teeth. And as only Eric could teach, I learned what it was to experience vampire blood vaginally. It absorbed directly into me, into the one place it would cause the most havoc.
“ERRRIC!” My own voice was a primal shout. From the moment he’d entered me, I orgasmed. I rode a devastating wave a pleasure that refused to dissolve, and as he continued to ride me at his punishing pace, I realized that as he thrust his blood into my ravaged core, my climax would not end until he finished.
So I screamed nonstop.
“You see?” he roared at me, yanking me into his powerful hips. “This is what it feels like! This is how badly you affect me!”
I barely heard him over myself. I couldn’t stop sobbing. My core remained in the throes of climax and continued to clench around him, locking him deep inside me.
I’d filled him with light, now he was retaliating by filling me with blood. He was killing me in the most beautiful way imaginable.
“Eric,” I sputtered softly, trying to reach him through his mania. “Please, baby. It’s too much.”
He didn’t ease up. “I know,” he hissed, leaning down to my shoulder. “Blinding, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I moaned loudly.
“You can’t think, can you? Can’t see passed your desire for me. Say it!”
“No,” I shook my head, ready to collapse under our colliding bodies. “I can’t.”
He sped up. My moans graduated to screams once again as my easing orgasm reignited into paralyzing pleasure.
“Now you know,” he growled angrily, slamming deep and letting himself come spectacularly hard. “You know what it is to love you.”
I sobbed like my heart was breaking as he unloaded in a prolific burst. I felt it coat me, showering my scorching walls with its soothing presence. I couldn’t stop convulsing. “Eric.” It was the only word I could summon. The only word I could remember.
“Sssookie,” he hissed sweetly, stilling his thrusts, letting me finally descend from my height. I panted for air. My head hung low. Blades of grass tickled my forehead as I slumped before him like a rag doll. Finally free from his enslaving invasion, I pulled my dress back down and curled up into a fetal position, willing my disorientation away.
I heard his zipper close up. He knuckled his way around my side and pried open my curled form. “Gimme,” he ordered gently, and burrowed his head into my middle, curling up into a ball just like me. My eyes were closed tight, so my fingers found their way to his head on their own. I cupped it reverently, needing to touch the man who tore me to pieces.
We were tired. Training and warm sunshine were conspiring against us. I felt myself float away.
Hmmm, I thought to my name. Not now. I was warm. I was happy. Whatever it was, it could wait.
“Uuuh,” I made a whining noise of annoyance. “Go away.”
I opened my eyes. The sun was high above us now. I was still on my side, which now ached from lack of circulation. My arm was asleep. Great. A mess of sandy blonde hair was nestled into the curve of my body. My fingers were tangled in it. Gently, I extracted them and smoothed it over. I smiled softly. My vampire was sleeping in the sun with me. The novelty would take years to wear off, no doubt.
“Jeez, what?” I looked up from my grassy bed, straight into the eyes of my kin. She was sitting beside us, as if we were a friendly threesome enjoying a picnic.
“Claudine!” I shot up to a sitting position. Eric’s head fell naturally into my lap. I cupped his head in my hands in pure instinct. Fairies hated vampires. I clutched him to me, his long frame sprawled in all its vulnerability. No, my mind wailed. Don’t touch him!
Claudine held her hands up gracefully, the picture of peace. “Calm yourself, cousin. I have no interest in harming your Chosen.” She smiled and framed my face in her hands. “It’s you I’ve come to see.”
I expelled a breath and reached up to cup her hand with mine. Thank Christ.
“Claudine,” I repeated more kindly. “It’s so good to see you.”
“And you,” she responded. Her eyes dipped meaningfully to my lap and she smiled. “I see you’ve been busy since you left us.”
I laughed sheepishly. She could say that again. “I know. Our people came to me the other night. They told me about what’s happened between us,” I gestured to him. “Weird, huh?”
Her brows arched. “You find your Choice weird? Why?”
“Uh, maybe because you told me fairies and vampires damn near destroyed each other some years back?”
Claudine waved her hand dismissively. “A long time ago, between only pure-blooded Fae and Vampire.”
“Did any of them ever manage to hook up between death feuds?” I asked doubtfully.
Claudine chuckled and shook her head. “In that regard, you are the first. But it’s understandable. You complement each other quite well. His mind is silent to you, and your blood enthralls him. Were you pure-blooded Fae, it would unhinge him. With a hybrid, he can exercise more control.” She held her hands apart, as if all were settled by that rationale.
I huffed and shrugged. “I guess. Still. I thought the Fae would be objecting more to our union.”
She shook her head. “It is not our place. A Fae bond is a sacred construct. We have no more influence over it than you do, really. He may have been your Choice, but in a fated world, Choice is merely destiny in disguise. You were meant to have this man. The bond would not have materialized if he posed any threat to you.”
“What if I’d Chosen a human? Or a were? What would have happened?”
She shrugged. “I cannot tell you. You Chose Eric.”
“Anything else I should know about our bond? Any more…surprises?”
But her attention had shifted away from me. Her lovely face was entranced by the sunlit vampire stretched out on my lap. Slowly, her hand floated above his face, her expression fathomless. “I remember him from olden times,” she murmured.
“He’s an old vampire, that’s true,” I said, watching her hand.
She shook her head vacantly. “No. Before then. I mean the man who inhabited this body before his turning.”
My brow raised in surprise. “You mean, like Eric Eric? Viking Eric? You knew him?”
She smiled at my tone. “You sound amazed. Do you not remember that humans and supernaturals move through this world together?”
“Sure, but…” I blinked in wonder and looked down at him. “I mean, what are the odds? How did you know him?”
“Of him, cousin. I knew of him. The Fae moved more freely between realms a thousand years ago. This man was known to many.”
“How? I mean, what were people saying about regular old Eric Northman way back then?”
Her smile grew nostalgic. “That was not his name,” she replied. “Only recently did the vampire world rename him.”
I must have been gaping at her, because her expression grew patient at my shock. “Did you think Northman was a thousand-year-old Norse name, Sookie? Does it not sound conveniently English?”
“I…” I didn’t finish. My fingers stroked his cheek. My bonded, my lover, my Chosen. I didn’t even know his real name.
She guessed my thoughts. “He was always Eric,” she reassured me softly. “In his old tongue, he was Eiríkr inn sigrsæli. In modern Swedish, he was Erik Segersäll.” She paused and let the strange syllables work their way into my head. “In history books,” she added, “he was Eric the Victorious, ancient king of Sweden.”
I blinked rapidly, forbidding any tears to form. She saw them forming and finished quietly, “Only in the last few hundred years was he known as Northman. It identifies his origins. Edgington did the same, taking his name from the current name of his ancient birthplace in England.” She stopped, her eyes clouding with centuries of memory. “I am not old enough. The Neolithic name of Edgington’s land is long dead. Extinct for three thousand years.”
I looked at the long, imposing body of the man between us. I had never asked him. Never even considered anything beyond what I saw of him now. He was Viking, sure I knew that, but hearing Claudine speak of him in such…mortal…terms…
My tears fell anyway. Damn them.
“What..?” I sniffed and backhanded my face. “What was he like? Eric.”
“Ah,” she looked at him fondly. “He was a warrior, your man was. Hard. He was ruthless to his enemies, but unusually, very merciful to those he conquered.” Her hand returned to floating idly above him, this time over his silent heart. “He even took Denmark before his end. To this day, the Danes deny he had any such control over their lands.” She looked back to me. “He was fatally wounded in 995AD. If Godric had not taken in interest in him, Eiríkr inn sigrsæli would have bled to death on a funeral pyre on a cold autumn night of that year.”
I sniffed again and Claudine smiled kindly. “Instead, he lies here. With you.”
“I never knew.”
“None do, cousin, except for those who lived during the events.”
“I never even asked him.”
“Your love for him is new, Sookie. You would have eventually.”
I curled over my lap and kissed his forehead softly. His skin felt soft under my lips and I smiled against him. “Why did Godric choose him?”
“Silly Sookie,” she chided kindly. “Vampires are not that different from humans. They value uniqueness and physical beauty. They turn those who would make excellent additions to their race. Eric is beautiful even by today’s standards. Can you imagine seeing him in a time when beauty was such a rarity? His height. His body. His temperament. He was unnaturally stunning. Godric, like all vampires, wanted such a child. He was very lucky. Eric was a rare specimen.”
Claudine’s hand finally came to rest against his chest. I watched her, my instincts still ready to defend him, even though I knew him to be safe. She cocked her head thoughtfully. “You have Chosen well with this man. Vampire or no. He is fearless. He will defend you to the death.”
The thought slipped out uninvited. “Unlike Bill?”
She blinked at the name. “No. Bill Compton would have defended you to the death,” she drew out slowly. “However, Bill is not fearless. He is a conscripted soldier, not a warrior. He is indecisive. But most of all,” her eyes twinkled mischievously at me, “Bill lacks imagination.”
I huffed in disbelief at her playful indictment. “That’s his worst crime? A lack of imagination?” I could think of one or two that seemed more grievous.
“In these times, with your problems, a lack of imagination is a death sentence, cousin.” She gestured to Eric between us. “Does he not prove so?”
I laughed softly and stroked his face. “To say Eric is imaginative is an understatement.”
“Precisely. If there is a way to salvage this situation and save both your skins, Eric Northman will find it.”
When she put it like that, I couldn’t disagree. The man was a master of wiggle room. He made me think of all those clever animals – jackals and ravens and octopi and whatnot – the ones that constantly escaped captivity, or stole food from impossible places, or solved problems in unnervingly smart ways. That was Eric. Too damn clever for anyone’s comfort.
I gave her a hopeful look. “Any advice for us tonight? The Authority are coming. They’re close to figuring out what I am.”
“Given your current situation, I’d suggest you look at the bigger picture. Have faith, cousin.”
“Bigger picture of what? How is the Authority not big picture?”
But she was already rising to her feet and dusting her hands. “You have bonded with a vampire, in more ways than one,” she gestured to my ring. “Fate has plans for you, Sookie. I doubt it would waste such an unprecedented union by siding with the Authority.”
“Fate sounds like a swell guy,” I retorted cynically. “You think he’ll make an appearance on our behalf tonight? Let Domingo know that he’s not ‘bigger picture’ material?”
The air was getting heavier around Claudine. She was getting ready to pop away. She smiled one last time. The weight of ancient love pressed down from her eyes onto me. “Trust, Sookie. That is all I can offer.”
A loud pop.
And she was gone.
I watched over him until he woke a few hours later.
He was astounded by his own laxity. Dying in the sun, only a small human girl for protection, out in the open, he questioned his judgment out loud.
“Hey!” I sputtered. “Small human girl who kicked your ass all day, buddy. I’ll thank you to remember.”
A smile broke through his consternation and he pulled me and kissed the top of my head. “I don’t doubt your abilities, lover. Just my own common sense. We’re not safe in the open.”
I told him about Claudine’s visit. Most of it, anyway. I left out her little history lesson. When we had time, I wanted to hear it in his words. “So see? Claudine would have helped me. We were perfectly safe.”
He clearly didn’t agree, but let the matter drop. “Go to the kitchen,” he changed the subject. “Eat.”
When the sun went down (another quick trip to the roof to watch), Eric chose a car from his Olympic-sized garage and drove us to Fangtasia. I have no idea the make or model. Shiny silver. Rumbling. Muscular. Smelled like leather and money got together and made a fragrant baby. That’s all I could tell you. When we got there, he wasted no time pulling Pam into his office. She sat mutely through his entire explanation. He and I were now permanently bonded. Both their way and my way. My bond had gifted him with the ability to day walk again. Sophie Anne was after me. Bill was back under her thumb. I was to live with Eric until further notice. And the Authority would be waltzing through the door any minute, probably to haul us off for questioning.
Pam sat through it all, expressionless.
When Eric finished, she finally spoke.
“You never ask about my day.”
I snorted into my gin and tonic. Quickly covering my mouth, I mumbled an apology. She and Eric eyed each other knowingly until she bowed her head to him. They had an understanding. She turned to me and I was amazed to see something akin to indebtedness in her eyes. She bowed to me as well. “For your gift to my maker, thank you, Sookie. You have made him more powerful than any vampire on earth.”
I blushed. “We’ll see about that. But you’re welcome. I’m happy to have something of value to give him.”
Eric jerked me close and buried his lips in my ear. “You are valuable, lover. Day walking be damned.”
I blushed harder and turned my face into his chest. Their formidable gratitude was hard to bear up under. Luckily, they weren’t prone to gushing and quickly got on with our next step. We needed a plan. Several plans.
“Dispatching them is easiest,” Pam spoke of the Authority officials. Hell, she was probably talking about everybody.
Eric smiled knowingly from his desk behind tented fingers. “Dispatching them is funnest, Pam. Don’t be whimsical. We need something more permanent.”
I spoke from his sofa. “As long as we stay here, can’t we just answer them honestly? Won’t that satisfy them? I mean, it’s not like any of us did anything against vampire law.”
Pam’s eyes slid over me. “I think we can safely assume that the Mississippi fuck job is a pretense for investigating you, Sookie.”
“But without tasting me and without seeing my Light, which I sure as fuck won’t demonstrate, how will they ever prove anything? I’m Eric’s. Aside from questioning, they can’t touch me. Right?”
Eric’s tongue slid out over his bottom lip when I called myself his. At my question, he nodded smugly. “Correct. No one may touch you without my permission.”
“Pity,” Pam grumbled.
Eric shot her a withering gaze. I merely smiled politely. Ladies take compliments, no matter the source. “So? Let’s just hear them out and see where it leads.”
I could feel Eric’s irritation at not having a better plan. His ‘imaginative’ brain saw many contingencies, all of which could end badly. He sighed heavily and eyed Pam. “I need you to find our former monarch. It shouldn’t be difficult. That whore practically sheds diamonds and angry creditors.”
Pam nodded. “And when I do?”
“Reconnaissance only. I won’t have you spooking the cattle. Report to me when you discover her whereabouts. Her death is mine.”
She nodded again. The subtleties of their relationship escaped me sometimes. They were so in tune that they often skipped talking entirely.
“Go out front. Inform me when they arrive. After they do, you may begin your hunt.”
The beautiful vampire’s eyes glittered at the prospect. At her dismissal, she turned and walked out. She shocked me by patting my shoulder on her way. I turned to watch her close the door. When I turned back around, I jumped a mile in the air. Eric was on the sofa beside me.
“Christ!” I stuttered at his sudden closeness. “I really hate it when ya’ll do that.”
He chuckled and palmed the nape of my neck, dragging me to him. “Too bad.”
He tugged me into straddling his lap and buried his nose into my throat. He did this so often, I was starting to question when he was hungry or when he simply wanted to inhale me. I pushed my inquisitiveness into our bond. “Which do you want?” I pressed the question against the delicate rim of his ear.
He was nuzzling into my loose hair, dragging his entire face along my skin. His stubble tickled terribly. I cupped the back of his head and giggled. Behind closed doors, Eric Northman was one tactile vampire.
He inhaled deeply and groaned. “I want both. But I shouldn’t drink you. It’s too soon since yesterday morning and I should keep a clear head.”
I tsked his rationing. “I’ve had plenty of yours since then. I’m fine. You should drink. You need your strength.”
“I get more than strength from you. I get drunk.”
I grinned wide and framed his face in my hands, pulling him away from my neck and grabbing hold of his gaze. “Open,” I ordered, just like a dentist.
He smirked and opened his mouth obediently. I gently shook his head once. “Drop ’em.”
His fangs fell into their heart-shaped place.
I grinned even wider and lowered my mouth to his, kissing those damned alluring points with the softest touch.
I pulled back before he could reciprocate and brought his head to my throat. “Drink your dinner or you don’t get any ice cream.”
His whole body rumbled with amusement as he put his mouth to my pulse and did as he was told. As usual, he bit so delicately that my nerves didn’t register any injury. Instead, they quivered with pleasure as his warm mouth pulled carefully on my blood flow. I plastered myself to him and clutched his head possessively, murmuring my pleasure as I gave to my man. Our arms went around each other and we settled into our wordless communion.
He grunted and purred in those odd vampire timbres, informing me that he was happy. I felt him tap our bond and access my body’s reaction to him. Judging from the clinical concentration I felt in him, he was monitoring my vital signs and overall well being. He wanted to make sure he didn’t sap too much of my strength. I opened my side wide for his inspection, stroking his nape and shoulders in silent encouragement.
After ten minutes, he withdrew his fangs and licked his puncture marks. He went to prick his finger to draw his own blood, but I stopped him. “Leave it,” I said.
He looked up at me. “I wish to heal you,” he replied.
I nodded, then shook my head. “I know. But I want them to see it. I want everyone to see it.”
Approval shone hotly in his eyes. He licked them again, ensuring that they sealed. They went stiff with his saliva. I nodded and moved to dismount him, but he grabbed my hips, trapping me in place. “They will not take you, lover. I’ll have their heads before that happens.”
I smiled softly and kissed his stern mouth, coaxing it soft and sweet again. “I know, Eric. No matter what happens, I’m yours. I love you and I’m yours. Remember that.”
He returned my kiss as if I’d done nothing to slake his appetite. He was hard beneath me and his tongue was all but fucking my mouth. I pushed at his shoulders. “You’ll make me all sex-smelling again,” I warned him. With him, I was a ticking time bomb of lust. He should know better than to provoke me with his talented mouth.
He threw himself backwards and barked in a different language. Sounded like a swear, based on his annoyance. He cupped my jaw and glared at me. “I’ll have you tonight, dammit. I forbid you to fuck another ice cube in my presence.”
I smirked and got off him, smoothing out my dress. “Liked that, did you?” I teased him coyly.
I could tell we were in for another delicious play fight when a knock struck the door.
“Enter!” he snapped.
Pam opened the door and stepped in. “They’re here.”