Against the wet drag of my demanding mouth, Sookie promised she would try to summon Claudine at dawn. Satisfied, I settled my lips to hers and pulled her into a long, groping kiss that did not end until a soft knock on the door interrupted us.
“Damn,” Sookie muttered as she retreated from her perch between my legs. The reluctant slide of her palms over my thighs as she moved away was extremely gratifying.
Licking away the last of her taste, I grunted for Hadley to reenter. The pet walked into the room, fresh and resolute. She was wearing the clothes my lover had given her, their figures similar enough to share, but Hadley’s lacking that extra something that gilded Sookie’s movements with pixie-like grace.
Had I seen Hadley before I’d seen Sookie, I would have understood the queen’s interest in this girl. She was sweet. She smelled soft and pliable. She would have made any vampire a worthy trophy. Alas, she was a pale comparison when in the same room with her cousin.
Sookie smiled at her, then turned to me.
“I’m gonna…” she jutted her chin to the door, “…go make Hadley and I some dinner before we go. Are you two okay to do this stuff without me?”
She did not wish to witness my bite to Hadley, or my glamoring of her. She knew they meant nothing, yet I sensed they still bothered her. I took her hand and dragged it to my lips.
“We won’t be long,” I assured her.
Hadley stiffened at the prospect of being alone with me, but said nothing. She knew better than to object. Sookie nodded, then headed for the door.
“Grilled cheese?” she asked her cousin.
Hadley pulled her lips tightly over her teeth. “More cheese than bread,” she answered. The girls scoffed together. Apparently, this was the standard reply to that question.
Once Sookie had disappeared, I quickly set about my task. I took Hadley’s gaze into my own and dragged her into my will. I explained our cover story. She repeated it back. I temporarily erased her knowledge of her son’s and her cousin’s Fae abilities. She blinked and asked me what I was talking about. Excellent. I told her that she was working for me from now on, that her son was her only priority now, that her sole purpose in life was to provide for him and keep him safe. She nodded mutely. I paused, then added one final command.
“You will consider a romantic relationship with Alcide Herveaux,” I said. “You will consider the fact that his is a good man. He is a supe, and can protect your child. He is loyal. He will not betray or hurt you in any way.”
Hesitation skittered in her eyes.
“He is good,” she repeated. “Too good for me.”
I tightened my reigns on her, smothering her poor self-esteem with my will. “You will heed me, pet,” I ordered. “For the sake of your son, for the sake of my lover, you will make yourself worthy of a decent, hard-working mate. I will not tolerate your weakness and let you endanger them by getting involved with another lowlife.”
Sookie would not have approved, but I didn’t care. I had no patience to let this opportunity develop naturally, nor did I did I plan to suffer that were’s presence around my bonded when he’d shown interest in her in the past. If Sookie was right and he had an inclination towards another Stackhouse woman, then I would do all in my power to put her in his path. Not that I gave much of a fuck, but from what I could tell, the two seemed fairly well matched. And I knew from the were community that Herveaux liked children, but refused to sire any of his own for fear of passing his wolf genes to innocents.
Weres of all kinds were prolific breeders. It must have chaffed Herveaux greatly to stifle that instinct.
Hadley seemed an ideal mate. She already had an offspring. One that was not a were, but required protection nonetheless. The wolf’s protective nature would no doubt kick in. I imagined that all of this would channel his interest away from Sookie and towards a more desirable pairing.
I continued to stare Hadley down. “Tell me your thoughts of him.”
She smiled wanly. “He’s nice,” she said softly. “He seems real fond of Sookie.”
I bit down my hiss. Fucking interloping werewolf. “Tomorrow, you will call him. You will thank him for his help. You will ask to see him again.”
A blush crept to her cheeks. “Like a date?”
I was dangerously close to commanding her to seduce him. To lure him into bed with every wile I knew a Stackhouse woman possessed. If she shared a single blood cell with Sookie, it would come as naturally as breathing. As I seethed, I felt the cool pluck of curiosity in my mind.
From the kitchen, Sookie could feel my anger. She was pressing herself into me, checking if I was all right, stroking me with reassurance.
I pulled back from my jealousy.
“Correct,” I agreed.
“And then what?” she asked.
“Talk to him,” I hedged considerably. “Just talk to him.”
My mind settled. At the other end of my house, Sookie felt pleased with this and went back to her business.
I settled back and crooked my finger. It was time for the final chore. “Come here.”
She rose and came to me instantly.
“Turn your head.”
The cream of her skin was exposed to me. Just another mortal, easily taken.
“For Sookie,” I growled at the pet. “Only for Sookie.”
I leaned forward and bit. My lips pulled back in distaste. My fangs fought to retract, but I forced them deeper into her throat. Hadley whimpered, but held still. Her blood pooled quickly in my mouth. My tongue sought refuge at the back of my throat, desperate to escape the base metal taste. I pulled away immediately, grabbing my waste bin and spitting her out. Hadley quickly put her hand over the wound, pressing down to staunch the flow. Normally, I would swipe the wound myself, letting the coagulant nature of my saliva seal it. But I couldn’t bear the thought.
I spat again. As the residual taste of her clung to my mouth, I tried desperately to detect Sookie’s essence in her shared DNA. Perhaps it would lessen the bitterness, the unpalatability of purely human blood. My taste buds fought savagely to find her in there. But aside from the pathetic genetic similarity, there was none of Sookie’s magic in this girl. Where Sookie was golden honey, this girl – like everyone else – had become lead poisoning.
With a final expulsion into the trash, I shoved the bin to the floor and waved her out of her trance. Her gaze cleared and she eyed me wearily.
“Are we good?” she asked, still holding her throat.
I nodded. “Go to the kitchen. Eat. I’ll join you both shortly.”
She nodded and left without a word.
I stood for a moment more, amazed. I had tasted that girl before. At the queen’s palace, I’d drunk from her throat with gusto, her fear and royal protection making her extra tasty. Her blood had been excellent. Not the best I’d ever had, but certainly appetizing.
I curled my tongue around the last stubborn drops and spat again, hitting the bin with perfect accuracy.
Again, Sookie had ruined me.
Another reason why losing her was unacceptable. If I didn’t mourn to death, I would starve to death.
Moving behind my desk, I put Sookie’s tome in a lock box before making my way to the kitchen where my little fairy would be munching happily on her human meal. I needed her right now. Even with the taste of toast and melted cheese on her lips, I knew her kiss was the answer to my vampiric indigestion.
My phone rang twice before I picked up. Sookie sat next me as we sped down the highway towards Fangtasia. Hadley sat in the back, her head pressed into the window as she watched the dark road whiz by.
“It’s me,” Pam answered, sounding as pissed as I imagined she would be.
“Where are you?”
“Heading back. The mansion is a cinder block. There were two vans out in front when I drove by.”
“No, those Extreme Makeover blowhards.”
“Darling, you know I hate it when we fight.”
“Of course the Authority,” she replied. “Where are you, so I know where to come get my huge apology present you’re going to give me for sleeping in a swamp?”
“The bar. Drive there, shower and get your ass on the door. When the Authority shows up, we’ll be nothing but smiles.”
“Huge, shiny present,” she repeated, and hung up.
I flipped my phone closed and pocketed it. In my rearview mirror, I could see my mark on Hadley’s neck as she craned to the side. She was a thousand miles away. Only when I killed the engine in my parking lot did she seem to come back to the moment. I opened my door and zipped to Sookie’s, opening it and offering my hand before she could object. She chuckled as she accepted it. Since the car had only two doors, I offered my hand to Hadley as well as she disentangled herself from the backseat. Once inside, I escorted them through the slim throng of patrons (it was still too early for most of my clientele) and into my office. I noticed that a new desk and overstuffed leather sofa had replaced the furniture I’d smashed the night before. Since Pam and I hadn’t ordered them, I assumed Ginger had shown more administrative initiative than I would have thought possible.
I took Hadley lightly by the shoulders. Sookie would want me to handle her gently from now on. “Have you any experience as a waitress or a bartender?”
“Uh, yeah. A little,” she answered. “I was working in a bar when the queen found me.”
I nodded. This was useful. “Then that is what you’ll do for the rest of the evening. I’ll find you more appropriate work in the future, but tonight I want the Authority to see that we have nothing to hide.” I eyed her pretty linen sundress. “Pam will provide you with more fitting attire when she arrives.”
Hadley looked down at herself as though she’d done something wrong. I rolled my eyes slightly and softened. “You are lovely, pet. It’s just branding.”
Sookie stood silently to the side of us.
I nudged Hadley back out into the public area and behind the bar where a young vampire employee of mine was mixing a dirty martini. Stroking her bare arms softly, I displayed Hadley to him. His dark, spiky head bowed fractionally to his boss and vampire superior. His leather outfit squeaked as he turned his full attention to me, as it was rare for me to address staff personally.
“This is Hadley,” I said as I gently turned her head to one side and brandished my mark to him. “She is mine.”
The vampire bowed deeper. “Yes, Sheriff.”
“She is to work with you tonight behind the bar. You will be kind to her.” I moved Hadley forward and leaned over her, into the vampire’s head space. “If she is distressed or damaged in any way under your watch…”
His eyes, heavy with eyeliner and mascara, lifted to mine to acknowledge my unfinished threat, then lowered again. “She is safe with me, Sheriff. I swear it.”
I nodded, then turned Hadley to face me. She craned up and set her jaw stubbornly. Apparently that too ran in the family. “Can I get you anything before you retire, Sheriff?” she asked professionally.
A smile tugged at my lips. “No, pet. I will summon you if you’re needed.”
She bowed to me just as my bartender had. “Enjoy your evening, sir,” she offered politely.
Pleased, I said nothing and turned away. She may be foolish, but she was well-versed in serving my kind. This was a boon in our favor.
I was halfway back to my office when Pam swept through the front door. Despite being filthy from head to toe, she wore that mud with the same haughty elegance as she would any of her couture suits.
I palmed her dirty cheeks and smiled faintly. “You are a singularly stunning creature, Pam,” I noted honestly.
She snorted and rolled her smudged eyes. “Pretty words aren’t presents,” she replied. “Whatever you’re getting me, everything I wear is a size four.”
I’d heard this many times. Pam’s vanity knew no bounds when it came to her slim waist, tiny feet, slender fingers, and any other female measurement of hers. I sighed with strained patience. “You’ll be rewarded, darling. Don’t get pissy.”
Satisfied, she nodded and made to walk towards the Employees Only area. I stayed her.
“When they come, take them to my booth,” I instructed. “Make sure Hadley takes their order. I want them to see her alone.”
Pam raised a brow. “Why?”
“To prove her insignificance,” I answered. “To show them that she’s a tasty little plaything of a sheriff and not an unpredictable vampire killer.”
“You seriously think they’ll pardon her for supposedly killing five vampires, including a monarch?”
“I think we did them a favor,” I said as I watched her from across the room. “Whether they admit it or not, Sophie Anne’s death is a blessing. If no one’s making a fuss and the human responsible is under my control, then perhaps they’ll be lenient.”
Pam followed my line of sight and watched as Hadley popped a Tru Blood into the microwave and made soft, shy conversation with the vampire man who’d ordered it. It was clear that her sweet Southern belle persona piqued his predatory interest. When the vampire attempted to put his hand over hers, my regular bartender shot from the other side and smacked him backwards.
“Behave yourself,” my man hissed at him. “The lady belongs to the Sheriff.”
The client pulled back grudgingly from the bar, taking his Tru Blood with him, but his eyes not dropping from the girl.
Hadley smiled with a kind of wan serenity that would only heighten the vampire’s interest. “It was real nice talkin’ to you,” she offered as he skulked away.
Pam snorted with amusement. I felt it, as well. Perhaps I’d been hasty in thinking Hadley should work elsewhere. Perhaps I was even wrong to think she should change her clothes. Humans may not come here expecting to see a blonde debutante, but my vampire patrons would certainly enjoy the fantasy of drinking someone so virtuous in appearance. She might be fucking good for business.
I turned back to Pam. “Go ready yourself. I’ll be in my office.” I turned away, but caught her arm. “Knock.”
A slithering chuckle left her. “I thought I smelled candy.” She walked off.
Indeed. She had no fucking idea.
When I entered my office, I found my candy lounging on my new sofa in lemon yellow lace underwear. She smirked when I halted and bared my fangs at her audacity.
“Nice couch,” she remarked conversationally, stretching across its length, scissoring her legs and arching her belly.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I snarled softly.
“Me?” she batted her eyes and touched between her breasts, just below her necklace. “I’m just making sure I don’t conflict with your ‘branding’. I hate the thought of clashing with your business’s identity.”
I took one menacing step forward. “What if I’d been Pam?”
“Well,” Sookie turned those maddening eyes upward in thought. “She could give me a quick lesson on your company’s core values, marketing strategies, logos and taglines, authorized fonts and colors…” she looked back at me. “…et cetera.”
I flashed to the sofa and dragged her into my lap. She shrieked, laughing musically as I roughly cinched her thighs over mine and cupped her face so that she couldn’t escape my glare. “It’s unwise to rile me, little girl,” I warned.
She splayed herself wider on my lap and arched into my grasp. “I completely disagree,” she purred.
My hands slid down her throat to her shoulders, yanking down her sunny bra straps. The cups flayed downward, exposing her perfect breasts. I jerked her into a kneeling position, bringing them level to my mouth.
“Yellow is definitely not one of those authorized colors,” I informed her. I claimed her nipples, one in my mouth and the other in my hand.
“Oh, no,” Sookie moaned with sweet dismay, her head dropping back as I gorged on her pebbled flesh. “What’ll I do?”
She gasped loudly as I tore her underwear off, leaving her bare and quivering with adrenaline in my lap. “You will conform to my business guidelines.”
I switched to her other breast and tongued her vigorously. Her hands were sliding in circles over my shoulders, spurring me on. I was so lost in her that I didn’t notice when she reached for her necklace and pulled her miniature blade free from its sheath. Just near my busy mouth, she gently sliced her skin in a line two inches long between those glorious tits.
“What about red? Can I wear red?”
My nostrils flared and I jerked backwards, my darkness growling gleefully at the rivulet of blood seeping down her naked chest. Her loosened bra threatened to absorb it as it trickled towards her stomach. I ripped it away, then leaned her back and drove my tongue into an upwards lick.
“Wicked fairy,” I accused as I lapped, refusing to let my supply escape. “You cut yourself to tempt me further?”
“It’s my blood,” she said lightly. “I can do what I like with it.”
“It’s my blood,” I shook her gently, not looking up from my snack. “That blade isn’t meant for you.”
She shoved my shoulders until I was flush against the sofa back. Wonderfully nude, she tossed her hair and laughed again. “You’re the boss.”
She tugged my t-shirt over my head and tossed it aside. A twin slice of red materialized on my sternum, two inches long between my pectorals. My lover leaned in and captured the drops as they slid down my chest. The sting of the blade and the heat of her tongue made my eyes roll back into my head. I yanked her closer, tugging her hand over my straining pants.
“Remove them,” I gritted. “Like you did in the meadow.”
She didn’t ask what I meant, nor did she stop licking my now-healed chest. Instead, she blew my mind to pieces when her blade-wielding hand cut another, deeper wound into my shoulder, while the other hand caught fire long enough to strip me bare in a blink. I didn’t see where my clothing ended up. I didn’t care. Writhing naked in my lap, drinking from my shoulder, my mate paralyzed every fiber in my being. Except those in my hands and in my cock.
I lifted her up by the hips and impaled her on me.
Sookie tore herself away from my shoulder. “Aaah! Yes!”
I wrenched her hard, sinking that perfect pussy all the way down until our hips fused together. Digging my fingers into her ass, I hissed, “Ride me.”
Gripping my waist for leverage, she obeyed, lifting and throwing herself onto me again and again.
“Never enough,” she whispered, leaning in to kiss my fangs. “I can’t get enough of you.” Through the emotional orgy of our bond, a tiny heart shape shimmered from her side. She was likening it to me as she ran her tongue over my teeth, for some reason.
I cupped her ass harder, opening her wider as she thrust. I cut my tongue and dipped low, running my blood over her self-inflicted slice. “Never,” I agreed into her delicious skin. “Never enough of you.”
We continued to christen my new sofa for another two hours, Sookie climaxing in my arms and sobbing my name until she went limp with exhaustion after number three. Satisfied that I’d shattered her, I turned her around and slipped into her from behind, her back plastered against my chest. She moaned wantonly, turning her head to kiss my throat as I continued to take my pleasure in her boneless body.
“Feels so good,” she murmured as I plunged deep in her core while fondling her breasts and rubbing her clit. “How can you always feel this good?”
She wasn’t expecting an answer and I simply grunted, increasing my pace slightly as I felt the tingling sensation in my balls start to build. She experienced that purely-male stir through our bond and moaned again, trapped in the echo of my ecstasy. Reaching under my hand as I rubbed her core, she cupped my sack gently, stroking it until it tightened even more and forcing us both to groan in bliss.
“I feel this,” she noted with drugged delight. “I feel how happy it makes you.”
“More,” I rasped desperately, my speed picking up again. “Touch me more.”
I slammed my eyes shut and concentrated on how our actions plucked our shared nerve awareness. Her hands on me. My hands on her. Our joined bodies. We experienced it all.
“Shoot me,” I pleaded, trapping her hand over my sack. “Destroy me, sweet baby.” The endearment escaped my lips without my notice. I’ve never called anyone ‘baby’ in my entire life.
Sookie nodded hastily, her other hand curling back around my neck. I felt both of them hum to life, warm light flaring up under my face and between our joined laps.
“Love you so much,” she whispered into my neck.
Her Light detonated. Fae-designed ecstasy shot into my throat and through the root of my dick. Unearthly pleasure rocketed through me, nearly cracking my bones in half and boiling my blood. I roared as it threatened to rip me inside out. Sookie’s orgasm charged through her system and tipped into mine. She seized on top of me, screaming and clenching me wildly as her core squeezed me dry. Her nails dug into me. Her teeth nipped my jaw as her human nerves experienced my electrocution and triggered her bite reflex. I couldn’t control my strength. I hugged her to me so tightly that I was terrified I would crush her, but I couldn’t stop. She moaned, melting back into me until I felt nothing but soft tremors running out of her muscles and into mine.
I detected no injury as she went limp against me.
“Eric,” she crooned, her hand loosening its hold on my neck and sliding back to cup my head.
My lips simply repeated their last words, as my mind couldn’t form any new ones. “Sweet baby,” I whispered, nuzzling through her hair and kissing her soft shoulder.
She turned her head and found my ear, taking the lobe between her lips and nibbling lightly.
My chest erupted with post-coital vibrations and she smiled against the side of my head. “I will never…ever…get enough of you,” she reiterated quietly.
Through the wall, the din of loud voices and the pulse of dance music pricked my ears as I continued to caress her. She picked her head up from my throat and listened. I could feel her sadness at the prospect of joining the real world once again.
Stubbornly, I drew her back, growling in disapproval, until she was plastered to me and I could continue to lick her skin like ice cream. She sighed and relaxed back, letting me.
Fuck the Authority, whenever they decided to show up.
Fuck Pam and her endless supply of amusing insubordination.
Fuck Hadley. Fuck Bon Temps. Fuck everything that divided Sookie’s attention away from me.
“Never,” I echoed, palming the back of her head so that I could lick further along her throat. “I will never get enough of you.”