I awoke several hours later.
I did not open my eyes. In the darkness of my room, I could feel the sun’s presence outside as it dipped low on the horizon. Behind my lids, I concentrated on the energies of my women. Three bonds now hummed steadily within me. Pam. She was close to rising. In another few hours, she would emerge from the ground and return to me here in Shreveport, dirty and bitchy, no doubt. Hadley. She was in my home. My link to her was substantially weaker than the other two, but I could sense her sleeping mind beneath me on the first floor. She and the were had obviously arrived with no trouble. I wasn’t pleased, exactly. I resented being tied to such an insipid creature, tainting my head with her ordinary emotions and her insignificant whereabouts. She was a perfect example of why I never shared my blood with humans. Their cerebral presence bored me. I planned to start erecting barriers around her bond in my mind, blocking out all but her location and her need for assistance. Everything else was a waste of my time.
The third bond pulsed hardest, sweetest, nearest.
The last woman shared my bed. My innermost sanctuary. A soft, warm, breathing woman.
Astonishing how many precedents had been set in the last few days.
I open my eyes and turned to my side to examine her sleeping form. She lay on her back, her face relaxed and lovely. Her hand shyly held mine, a gesture I found simultaneously modest and carnal. My necklace lay nestled in her cleavage, the dagger sheathed, ready to nick every inch of me and feed my greedy little lover. As usual, my dead heart squeezed at the sight of her. She still wore the white robe, which had loosened at the belt and fallen open at the side, giving me a dangerous eyeful of her plump breast, sleek ribcage and toned leg. It had taken me ages to find that robe. Pam had brought me over a hundred before I found the right combination of texture, color and pattern. When Sookie had tied it up and turned to me in the bathroom, I was suddenly back in Jackson, Sookie reading my memories and pushing me into bed. In my fantasy, she’d torn that robe off in her haste to give herself to me. She’d been mine.
She was mine. She was now in my bed, wearing my gifts.
My fangs clicked.
Looking at my mate, I hungered for everything I saw. Food. Sex. Warmth. Love.
Yet another precedent.
Silently, I slipped out of my own robe. Defying gravity, I vaulted and held myself slightly above her, only a few fingers holding me aloft from the mattress. I didn’t wish to disturb her, but I needed her closer. Always closer. I flicked the other side of her robe open and tried not to growl at her naked body.
I vaguely noticed Herveaux’s scent on the fabric, but my annoyance was quickly overrun by the scent of her beneath it.
Fae. Golden, glorious, trusting Fae. Sookie. My devilish angel.
I lowered as close as possible without touching her and breathed deeply. My cock sprang to life. My eyes clouded. My mind deserted me. My blood inside her taunted me, laughing with contentment now that it was where the rest of me ached to be. Jealousy tore me apart. To be that mouthful of blood right now, warm and nestled inside her. I stifled a groan of longing.
I couldn’t take not touching her. It was wrong. So wrong. I needed her, any of her. I was going crazy being this close, just as much as I went crazy when she wasn’t near.
I arched my neck that final inch and kissed her lips. The essence of sweet met my tongue. I flicked it out, sipping from her. She slept so soundly, she didn’t respond. Her soft mouth didn’t form a kiss. It gave way under my slight pressure, neither encouraging nor resisting me. The single inch of our contact soothed me slightly, but it wasn’t enough.
I slid down to her throat, burying my face against her pulse. The chain of her necklace was cool against my cheek. Again, I inhaled and smothered another groan of pleasure. The fact that I would never identify what made her smell so intoxicating vexed me savagely. I was familiar with tens of thousands of scents. I could detect the slightest variations, including which country a dried stick of cinnamon had been harvested. Pollution, organic matter, animal pheromones, chemical compounds, even certain types of magic left identifiable trace in the air. There was nothing I had no reference for. Except Sookie. Her scent’s unaccountability was rivaled only by its temptation. I hated its mystery. I fervently hoped I would never solve it.
Her nipples hardened in the cool air. Their lovely pink tips commanded me to suck them. I obeyed, teasing their sweet flesh with the lightest suction. Sookie made a little squeak of pleasure. Moving lower down her nudity, I kissed every inch before I reluctantly left it.
Yet another precedent.
I had made more kisses in the last six days than I had in the last six hundred years. Vampires are not kissers by nature. Orally-fixated, perhaps, but we generally lacked the softness, patience and inclination needed for such a human activity. We bit. We tongued and we licked. But using our lips in such a chaste manner was rare. And while Sookie’s skin demanded that I bite and tongue and lick her, I was astonished by my own heart’s insistence that I cover her in thousands of kisses, with no digression into rougher contact.
Odd. Extremely odd.
But inescapable. The valley between her breasts beckoned. I lowered my head, kissing just below her dagger, following the line of her breastbone, my lips touching every millimeter until I reached her navel.
“Little siren,” I accused into her stomach.
She murmured in her sleep, her lax form curving upwards slightly. Towards me. Responding to the rasp of my voice. And with that unconscious encouragement, my thirst exploded in urgency.
There was no time. I had no choice. I needed her. She was provoking me again and had no one to blame but herself. She’d given herself to me less than a week ago, demanded my fidelity and insisted I only feed with her. Now she was asleep, torturing me with my wish to let her rest, but also my need to slake this hunger that only she could satisfy.
This fucking conundrum again. Cherish Sookie. Devour Sookie.
I slid down several more inches, my kiss growing more fervent with each body part.
Sleep, I urged through our bond. Stay in rest, my love. You need strength.
I palmed her flawless thighs, spreading them wide. The suppleness of her inner legs and the ethereal scent of her sex made me growl low. I had done all I could, encouraging her to get the rest I knew she needed, but my needs were too great to ignore a second longer. I would not wait for her to awaken on her own.
As I gazed at my target, my heart paralyzed me, refusing my bite reflex, until I brushed my lips over her pulse point, paying homage with a kiss. With that, my love for Sookie was satisfied, and it allowed me to press my fangs against her skin and gently bite down on her inner thigh. They slipped into her flesh with ease. Siphoning such a large artery meant I only had to seal my mouth to her, no sucking required. Liquid Utopia filled me, ripping open my human memories of apples and blackberries and, of course, honey. A river of honey.
“Mmmmm…Eri…c,” my angel whimpered above me, opening her thighs wider in invitation.
Sleep, I repeated softly to her. I refused to open my mouth and lose a single drop to speech. I simply cannot wait, lover. I’m starving for you.
She moaned again, her chin tilting back as she arched into my feeding. “Yes,” she sighed, her eyelids fluttering.
The unearthly fragrance of her arousal assaulted me. Her skin glowed brighter, a combination of her natural aura and my blood. Our bond whispered that she still slept. She was simply in a dream state, imagining our intimate act.
Lust tore through me and filled our bond, despite my efforts to keep it chained up. It rippled through her peaceful state and she moaned wantonly. My darkness hissed with pleasure, mocking my heart’s softness and my cock’s miserable solitude. Her blood was hot, but her love and pussy burned so much hotter. I thought I would be content with the first. Now it was paltry.
With my final mouthful, I blasted through her sleeping tranquility, allowing my ecstasy to meld with hers and forcing her to climax.
“Eric!” she moaned hotly, her unconscious body seizing with pleasure. “Oh, Eri…” I fucking loved my name in her mouth, even when it was drowsily misshapen.
Sealing her wound, I edged forward and lapped my dessert from her delicate folds as they pooled with desire. “Yes,” I urged softly. “Always so ready for me, lover. It drives me mad.”
More wetness coated my tongue and I groaned, not bothering to smother it.
Still hovering, I glided upward and positioned my hips directly above hers. “Sookie,” I barely kissed into her mouth.
I pulled back to position myself, then slid a few precious inches into her molten heat. Her tight flesh worked hard to accommodate me, despite the wondrous slickness that welcomed me and pulled me deeper.
Her closed eyes screwed up tightly as her body widened to accept me. Her hands clutched my biceps, anchoring herself to our mating. She squeaked again, slowly rising from the depths of her slumber. I tried – tried – to stop halfway, hoping that a shallow depth would satisfy my lust for her. I had planned to keep my lovemaking as soft and unobtrusive as possible, letting my love continue to rest. But it was useless. Once I’d entered her silky perfection, there was no such thing as halfway.
I buried myself to the hilt and grunted loudly in bliss.
Her closed eyes fluttered wildly. “Eric…so…good…”
“Forgive me,” I whispered as I started to pump smoothly, our lips and hips the only points of contact. “I need inside you, lover. I need to feel you.”
She hummed again, hearing me, but still not lucid. She hooked her calves around mine and tugged, pulling my body down until more of us touched. I resisted. I wished to leave her as unmolested as possible. She must have sensed this through the bond, because her lips made an adorable pucker of distaste and her hands grabbed my ass firmly and yanked downward.
I hissed, the motion forcing me deep and hard within her. “Yessss,” my darkness snarled out loud.
With that, her eyes opened fully. She was awake; awake, bitten, and getting fucked by a monster who had no intention of stopping. I wordlessly begged for understanding as I continued to thrust hard into her addictive heat.
My angel, she looked up at me…and smiled. “You’re no dream,” she noted playfully. Her hands now gripped me with authority, sculpting my ass and guiding me as I stroked.
“No,” I moaned in relief. “No dream. I needed you. Needed-,”
“Food,” she interrupted, leaning up into me, kissing me sweetly as her body rocked with mine. “Sex.”
“Everything,” I corrected, finally letting my full weight rest in the cradle of her feminine curves and swells. “Needed everything.”
“Then take,” she offered, rubbing her cheeks into my stubble. “God, I love how you fuck me, baby.”
Such vulgarity in such a pretty voice. I pinned her hips down roughly and began driving violently into her. “Come. Right now.”
She arched into my savagery and sighed with pleasure. “Yes, Eric.”
She came. Shivering and gasping and whispering my name, she came. I couldn’t fucking bear it. This soft, mischievous little miracle of nature, I never knew when to expect simpering obedience or a knock-down, drag-out fight. And just as I was teetering on the brink of brutish insanity, she pushed me over the edge with kittenish compliance.
“Fucking adore you,” I swore at her, slamming home and flooding her with a torrent of come. She clutched my shoulders and sobbed softly, blooming under my release.
“Love you,” she whispered feverishly into my throat, kissing into my straining muscles as euphoria took me.
We continued to move together, stealing every last ripple of pleasure from our union before collapsing back into bed.
I began to flip us so that she could rest on me, but she clamped her arms and legs around me stubbornly. “No,” she said.
I settled on my elbows, lifting away and smirking down at her. “I’m too heavy.”
“A little telepath in Dallas,” I replied wryly, kissing along her hairline. “She said I weighed a ton.”
The little telepath trapped beneath me snorted and looked away ruefully. “Yeah, well. She said a lot of stuff she didn’t mean.”
“I doubt that,” I continued my path to her ear, nibbling gently. “Indeed, she’s pathologically honest.”
She craned her head, sighing with pleasure as I teased her face with the softness of my lips and the sandpaper of my cheeks. “Okay, maybe she is, but give her a break. She was operating under a lot of misunderstandings.”
She pushed me back at the shoulders and gave me a stern jut of her chin. “None of which you bothered to set straight.”
I chuckled and rocked her gently. “You had only to ask. I would have gladly shown you how pleasurable my weight can be.”
“Jesus Almighty,” she rolled her eyes skyward. “Dirty old man.”
I laughed and plastered myself to her, holding back just enough not to crush her. “Still think I’m not heavy?”
She shocked me and hummed gratefully, her hand in my hair, guiding my head to rest in the hollow next to hers. “No. You’re just right.”
With that, she closed her eyes and snuggled deep under me, as though I were her favorite blanket. Needing no air, I burrowed my face into her hair and throat, caging her in with my broader, longer frame.
“Still sleepy,” she murmured, her nose buried against the crook of my neck.
I nodded, the strands of her hair flirting with my stubble. “Then sleep,” I answered.
“Are you going to sleep, too?”
“No. I have risen for the night.”
She paused. “Will you stay with me? Just for a minute?”
I kissed her hair. Fuck, there wasn’t a single inch of her I hadn’t tasted. “Yes,” I said simply. “I’ll be generous and give you five.”
She snickered lightly and planted her own kiss on my collarbone. “I’ll be up soon,” she promised, then added softly, “Play nice with Hadley.”
“She also sleeps,” I informed her with less humor. “If she awakens before you, I’ll show her to the kitchen and a guestroom.”
Sookie butted her forehead lovingly against my shoulder. “Thank you again.”
“I wish you to be happy.”
“I am,” she yawned girlishly. “Alcide likes her. A lot.”
“He is welcome to her.”
“Hey,” she bit me lightly, arousing me all over again. “She’s not some whore you can pass around.”
I craned my neck to one side, straining into her bite. “She has behaved as a whore, but no matter. I will not share her with vampires, nor will I prevent her from choosing other men. She may do as she pleases.” I fastened my human teeth to her throat, imprinting her skin with my bite radius. “It is Sookie who is forbidden any man’s bed but mine.”
She in turn craned her neck into my mouth. “So bossy,” she teased.
I growled and shoved her deeper into the mattress, my lighthearted mood vanishing. “Say it.”
“Make me,” she defied.
I bit down on her again, harder, but without injury. “Only me,” I snarled under her ear. “Say it.”
She hummed with pleasure and rubbed her naked body playfully along mine. “Mmmmm…so sleeeepy.”
“Tell me now or I’ll kill any man who speaks to you.”
She giggled at my very sincere threat. “What if I decide to run away with Pam? She’s not a man.”
“Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “Just you.” She kissed my left cheek and pulled back. “Only you.” She kissed my right. “Your bed.” Kiss to my chin. “Your love.” Kiss on my nose. “Sookie is Eric’s. Mind, body and soul.”
My greed for everything made her sigh with feigned resignation. “And Light. Everything I am is yours.”
At last, I relaxed and allowed my face to soften as she caressed it with hers. “Rest now,” I ordered softly. “Before you stir me up again.”
Denial rose hotly within her and I stopped her lips with my own to silence her indignation. “You always stir me,” I clarified. “Go to sleep before you force me to act on it.”
She huffed softly, but pressed her mouth shut.
I nodded and resumed my caging vigil above her. “I will stay until you do.”
My fingers flew across my laptop as I caught up with emails.
Many things needed my attention. I was pleased that Sookie had fallen asleep almost instantly, her fierce embrace quickly slackening until she lay unconscious beneath me. I hated to leave her, but there was much to do, a great deal of it unpleasant. First and foremost, I wrote to the Authority. I was brief, informing them that Hadley Stackhouse, pet to the queen and cousin to my bonded, was in my custody. I explained that the pet had bravely but foolishly taken vampire justice into her own hands to save innocent people from the queen’s subversive plans. I kept my tone light and uninterested, as if such skirmishes didn’t concern me. I also insinuated that since Sophie Anne was a liability to our kind and no longer a queen, Hadley’s deed was of no serious import.
After a moment’s hesitation, I blithely admitted to claiming her. Again, I painted myself a whimsical possessor, noting that her family tie to my bonded and their similarity in taste had swayed my interest. I offered them full access to her for questioning, a right I knew they would take anyway, but made it clear that I would not tolerate unnecessary damage to her.
It would distress my bonded human, I wrote, and to be frank, I dislike Hadley’s taste when she is under duress. It is acidic.
I signed off as their humble servant.
The next email was to my estate lawyer, requesting that she locate several homes in the Shreveport and Bon Temps areas under the price of $75,000. Hadley had been living a charmed life with the queen, but she was not welcome in my home, nor did I get the sense that she wanted such an arrangement. She and her child would have their own residence. She would also be issued employment. I had yet to decide if I wanted her working in Fangtasia so I could monitor her, or if I could position her in one of my other, nonvampiric bars in Shreveport. I would discuss it with Pam.
Speaking of which.
I tilted my head. The sun was setting outside. Pam would be up in moments. I noted with some surprise that I had little interest in going outside to watch the sunset. It was a sight I’d enjoyed very much as a human, and a sight I astounded at now, but without Sookie folded up against me, her loose hair teasing the skin of my neck, the inclination was weak.
Instead, I closed my laptop and settled back into my chair, gazing idly at another mystery that needed my attention.
Sookie’s ancient book sat on the corner of my desk. I’d brought it down with me, taking it from where Sookie had deposited it on the chair next to my bed. It was old, possibly as old as me. It’s dusty, leathery scent suggested it was not magical in origin. It had been bound the old-fashioned way, with twine and ink and laborious attention to detail. I moved my computer and slid the book over, opening the first page.
Sookie had been right. Its language would be difficult for any human who wasn’t schooled in antique languages or any vampire made after the Dark Ages. I skimmed several sections, zeroing in on the passages describing Sookie’s Light. With my insider knowledge, it was easy to discern that Sookie had been correct about our Fae bonding. Not that I had doubted her. I smiled as the passage described the permanent state of such a bond. Apparently, Faes were every bit as possessive and jealous as vampires when it came to choosing a mate.
The description of Radia also captured my interest.
Ah. It seemed Sookie had given me more than just the ability to day walk. She’d also inadvertently trusted me with this particular kind of Light.
Radia exchanged from Fae to Fae
Mortalities forge into One
My brow furrowed. Strange. From what I understood, Faes were not mortal. They lived forever, like us. And what did it mean when the Fae was betrothed to a non-Fae? Sookie’s Radia had not been an exchange, but a gift. I had given no Light in return. My life force – mortality, as they coined – only resided in her in the form of my blood.
I leaned back and considered. Perhaps the passage was referring to the true death for the Fae, that their eventual end would become intertwined with their mate’s. When one died of injury (as we all would one day), their mate, regardless of their health or situation, died with them. I marveled at such an exchange. Fae bonds must be rare indeed, or an immortal to entrust such a weakness to another.
I shot up in my chair. No. Not possible. Unthinkable.
Jesus fucking Christ.
Her Radia pulsed inside me. It would do so until the day I met the true death. Did that mean that Sookie’s mortality was now forged with mine? Was she to live and die by my side, whether I lived another week or another thousand years?
Fear, awe and hope crashed through my skull. It wasn’t possible. My death was my own. The idea that Sookie would perish should I be staked, or silvered, or decapitated by any number of enemies, left me gasping uselessly for air.
But there was the other extreme. Sookie could live indefinitely, her Radia nurtured by my inability to die naturally, just as if she’d chosen a Fae mate. She could stay with me. Always. I would never suffer the agony of watching her grow old and die in the meager amount of years humans occupied.
Another thousand years of Sookie.
My fangs ran out. I slammed into our bond and clung to it with all of my might. Her sleeping mind hugged me back, pliant and calm and unaware of my panic.
I had to protect her with everything I was. I had to protect myself, as they were no longer mutually exclusive.
Fuck, I needed to think. I needed to think! I needed-
A knock of my door had me growling loudly. I heard a gasp behind the wood panel and the intake of a breath. “Sheriff Northman? Are you in there?”
A small squeak of fear. The door opened slightly and her blonde head poked through. “Can…can I talk to you? Please?”
“I said enter, girl.”
Quivering, she slid through the slender crack and stepped in, her head dipped low and submissive. “I…wanted to thank you again. For taking me on and all? I really apprec-,”
“You’re welcome,” I cut in dismissively. “There is food in the kitchen. Sookie will wake shortly. Leave me. I have work.”
She shook her head and took an audacious step closer. “I need to tell you something first.”
Fuck. I didn’t have time to spare for this. “You may fuck the werewolf, if that is your concern. Though, I will have to bite you before the Authority arrives to question you. Herveaux has no say in that.”
Her head shot up and her eyes nearly popped from her head. “What? No! Jesus Pleasus, why would you-? No, this isn’t about him. Or the Authority.”
I exhaled in irritation. “Spit it out, pet. I’m getting impatient.”
With a bravery that clearly ran in the family, she sat in the chair across my desk, twisting her rings and biting her lip with worry.
“This is about Hunter. I need to tell you about my son.”