It was cold.
Sookie shivered in the breeze as she looked up at the clear autumn moon. She had blood on her everywhere. It was sticky, refusing to dry in the humidity. It seeped into her jeans and buttoned shirt, making a freezing soup against her skin. She couldn’t wait to get home. She was impatient to dump her clothes in the garbage and herself in the tub.
A twig snapped under Eric’s boot.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as he kept her slow pace, noting that he’d hunched himself, rolling his shoulders forward and bending at the waist slightly. Ever since Dallas, he’d adopted this shorter, curved stance whenever she was near. She’d noticed it before. With everyone else, he walked tall, head thrown back, eyes rarely bothering to lower themselves to anyone who didn’t meet his height, which was no one. Around her, he stooped, eyeing the ground, walking at a speed that Gran would have found pleasant.
She tried not to notice how protected she felt under the overhang he created. Or how his posture seemed incomplete without his arms wrapped around something. Something… shorter.
“I have money.” His voice interrupted her thoughts. “Enough for you to go wherever you want. Start a new life.”
Visions of wearing Chanel in Paris flashed in her mind. Wearing pillbox hats and little white gloves, ordering coffee in her bad French, and getting a brown punch in the mouth served in a shot glass, or so the reputation of strong French coffee bragged.
The image instantly dimmed and she shook her head. “There’s no point. I’ve had Bill’s blood. Lots of it. If he wants me, he’ll find me.”
Just like yours. Just like you.
They cleared the trees on her property. Her house glowed happy yellow in the moonlight as they made their way to her porch.
“You staked him to save me. I never expected that from you,” he noted with a wry upturn in his lip.
Sookie chuckled. “I never expected it from myself. Bill’s not the only one who’s changed. My life is so different from how I thought it’d turn out. I’m not who I thought I’d turn out to be.”
He paused, letting her mount a few steps without him, letting her gain in height until they were almost equal. Even now, he didn’t bring his eyes up to their usual Fuck You, Shortround altitude. They lingered at her feet.
“Well, to me you’ll always be that girl in the white dress. The one who walked into my bar.”
She smiled wanly. That girl. Man, was she a far cry from the blood-soaked warrior Sookie felt like now. Eric’s gaze flickered to hers for a moment. Long enough for her to see that the blood-soaked warrior in front of her did not see the sticky, hardened mess she was. His eyes reflected a bashful man looking at a pretty girl. One in a girly white dress.
He didn’t give her long to see it. He was mumbling about the door and walking around her before she could blush at the sight of Eric’s rarely seen sweetness. So rare, she hadn’t seen it at all since she’d broken his heart in Bill’s home that night. The same home where she’d just stabbed Bill straight through the heart to save him. Not that the stabbing had done a damn thing except ruin his shirt, but lordy lord, how different everything was now.
She turned and followed him inside, trying to shake her head clear of the confusion, the fear, and the bone tiredness. Out of reflex, she thanked him for walking her home (as if they’d been on a date and not a sauntering retreat from the monster next door) and opined that she had nothing to offer him since she was out of Tru Blood.
There’s still a drink to offer. Something that used to drive him mad with pleasure.
Sookie shook herself, walking to the kitchen, flipping light switches and shivering for a new reason.
“I’ll take a pen and paper, if you have them.”
Confused, but grateful for a job, Sookie nodded, digging into the junk drawer and locating both. She hands barely shook at all as she offered them to him. His great, hunched frame lowered into one of the dining room chairs. As she watched his large, ropey hands grasp and tug on its back to pull it out, then suddenly sweep into an elegant shape to wield the much smaller pen, her blushed deepened. There were four chairs surrounding the table. On That Night, they’d christened three of them. Sookie couldn’t help but wonder if he’d chosen one of them. Nor could she help but remember being under those hands. Watching their large, ropey strength as they tore fabric and upended furniture That Night, and then suddenly sweep into soft, velvety cups that held her face. Her hips. Her breasts.
She suddenly wanted to run and hide. Having him here, all alone, when they both needed a shower and a bed, made her itch to do something crazy. Like offer them.
In a blur of moment, Eric stabbed the pen deep into his own wrist.
Sookie jumped, her heart skipping a beat in fear for him. “Eric! What in God’s name are you doin’?!”
“Giving you back your home,” he replied evenly. The pen responded beautifully to his touch, making loops and flourishes like she could never in a million years replicate if given the same pen. “It’s not much, but it’s the least I can do.”
She fell into Southern politeness again. “Thank you.”
She felt his wish to say more. He stayed silent. He handed her the limp piece of paper before standing to his impossible height and walking slowly towards the door.
“Stay away from Bill,” he offered softly over his shoulder.
He was leaving.
After everything that had happened that night. After everything they were silently screaming at each other. After he knew they screwed in that damn chair he sat in. Her asshole Viking one-time lover was being more of a distant gentleman than Bill the antebellum dandy had managed in their entire relationship. She’d once told him that she had to walk away from a chance with him. She’d once asked him to respect her decision and leave her be. She’d once made a choice that kept her crying for many days afterwards.
She’d screamed at Eric a hundred times to leave her alone and he’d never listened. The one time she broke his heart, and suddenly he was fuckin’ Galahad. Walking ladies home, signing over deeds, throwing coats on blood puddles so she didn’t dirty her sneakers, and then making a gallant fucking exit. Suddenly her tiredness gave into disbelief.
“What the fuck?”
Her blunt question had him turning at the door. “What what the fuck?” he asked quietly.
“You,” she accused, walking up into his bent shadow. “You what the fuck? Is that seriously it? Stay away from Bill? You’re going to walk me home, bleed all over my pen, give me back my house without a single douchey argument, tell me the obvious, and then just leave?”
“I’ll buy you another pen.”
“Forget the damn pen. Why are you suddenly this guy? I used to be that girl in the white dress… around the time that you used to be an asshole in leather pants. Then you lose your memories and go sweet on me. Then you get them back and freeze me out. Now you’re sweet and freezing me out. I ask again, Eric, what the fuck?”
Her face was growing hot. It only got worse when his wide, downturned eyes rose to hers and slitted into the arrogant glare that she knew so well. “If I recall, you liked me sweet. Several times.”
The girl in the white dress would have slapped him. But this girl? She breathed a sigh of relief. “There you are. Finally.”
“What do you want, Sookie? A fight? Give me the paper back and we can start over. I’ll hold it above you head and tell you it’s yours if you give me a blowjob while I feed from your wrist, how’s that? Or I can evict you, then go upstairs and pack your shit because you’re not staying anywhere near that saber-toothed bastard, all while you scream that you’re not leaving your home. I can burn this place down, if you like. You can kick and claw and call me heartless when I point out that even fairies aren’t fire proof.”
He held out his hand expectantly for the page. “Or I can leave you alone. Like you want. Like you always want.”
Tears pricked Sookie’s eyes as she looked up at his glacial ire in amazement. “No,” she whispered. “That’s too much. Go back a little.”
Eric grunted in anger, lowering down into her face. “Go back where?”
She didn’t cower. Instead, she reached up and gently touched his cheek. “Go back,” she repeated. “You were too sweet before, now you’re too much of an asshole. Go back. To the middle.”
He didn’t react to her touch. “I see. You’re voicing a preference on how I conduct myself around you. Not sick in love with you. That makes you uncomfortable. But not the chilly prick you once slapped. That makes you mad. Very well, Miss Stackhouse. I’ll try for a balance between the two. Am I allowed to wish you a goodnight, provided I ask for that blowjob before I go? I assure you that the prick in me is asking for it, but the me sick in love with you would tell you how perfect you are while you’re sucking me.”
The soft caress against his cheek turned into the stinging slap he remembered from so long ago. His head barely moved and he laughed with no mirth. “I see I’ve yet to find the middle.”
“Fuck you,” Sookie croaked as her tears finally fell. “You think this is about me feeling uncomfortable?”
“I think that’s exactly what this is about,” he spat back. “You don’t want me, Sookie. You don’t want me sweet. You don’t want me cold. You hated all the little games I played to try and make you love me. You only did once, and you ran the minute he was gone. I offered myself to you, everything that I am, and you walked away. So I’m making this easy. The house is yours again. Your offer to work as my telepath is void. Your attempt to save our vampire king will be noted in my report to the AVL, thank you very much for your service. We have no reason to interact with each other from this moment on, with the exception of your need for assistance with Bill or whoever the fuck else. In that, you get no say. I will protect you, but as for talking, we’re fucking done.”
He turned and strode towards the door.
A hot, angry cry broke from Sookie and before she could stop herself, she charged at his retreating back and threw herself into it, punching and clawing.
“No!” she raged at the slick, bloody mess of his jacket. “You don’t get to just walk out and never come back! Fight, God damn you! Fight, like you always fight! You never walk away! You fight for what you want!”
He reared back and grabbed her hands, pivoting until he shoved her against the wall. “What I want doesn’t want me back!”
“I do too! I told you that I’ve always wanted you!”
“A part of you!” he roared back, slamming her hard enough to shake the picture frames. “You said a part of you! A part of you wants a part of me! You think that’s good enough? Everyone wants a part of me, Sookie! They fucking glaze over at the prospect of my blood, or my money, or my cock. Just like every vampire wants a part of you! Your blood, your smell, your hot little pussy that feels like sunrise in summer. But what good are those things to me? What good is not having your smile? Or your laughter? Or your heart? I’ll leave you now, and go back to those fawning whores who think they love me while they ride my dick and hope for a souvenir. You can stay here, and select your true love from the ass grabbers at Merlotte’s. Call me if you need me.”
He let go of her hands and turned away again, his hunch gone. He nearly threw the door off its hinges as his suddenly-towering frame burst through it.
Sookie sobbed and backhanded her tears away. The screen door smacked into the siding as he disappeared. She heard his heavy footfall as he stomped down the steps.
“Hey!” she shouted, exploding through the door and following him out onto her lawn. “No. Hell, no! Get back here! We are not done, mister!”
“We are,” he spoke much cooler, not turning back. “Go inside. It’s not safe out here.”
“I don’t want safe!” she shrieked, sounding like a maniac even to her own ears. “I want…”
He paused at the edge of the grass, just at the tree line. Without looking back, he waited. “Yes?”
Sookie swallowed back her sadness, staring at the dark outline of him, fully aware he could take off any second and she’d never see him again. She wanted to, but she didn’t dare approach him, so she spoke in slow, shaky words that she prayed didn’t send him whirling angrily into the skies.
“Listen. A long time ago, I saw a beautiful man on a throne in a dark room full of admirers. He was a bastard. And he tried to barter for me like a horse trader. He was handsome, and rich, and powerful, but I never wanted to see that man again.”
He stiffened, his back bunching under his jacket.
“And there was a girl in a white dress,” she continued. “She chose it because she did not know how to read a room. She was naïve. She stupidly thought that law and decency would protect her from the bad things in the world. She didn’t like what she saw that night, because it went against her understanding of things. That girl slapped vampires when she got angry.”
Sookie finally dared that step in his direction.
“This girl shoots them with supernatural balls of light. That girl? Was afraid of the dark. Of the big, scary monsters who lived in it. This one…”
Eric cocked his head, then slowly allowed himself to turn around, staring hard at the bloody girl in black as she made her hesitant way towards him.
“What about this one, Sookie?”
“This one… she’s in love with a big, scary monster who can’t live anywhere else. This man… he’s not that asshole on the throne from that night. But then… he’s not the naked man walking alone and frightened on my road, either. He’s somewhere in the middle. I barely know him. I’ve only ever seen him once or twice. But I love him. And I want him. All of him.”
He was silent. The only thing that gave Sookie hope was that, as she got close, his body hunched towards her just a tiny bit.
“I’m not her,” she whispered. “That girl. I still have the white dress, if you ever want to see it again, but I won’t be her when I put it on. Just like you’ll never be that bastard who tried to steal me from Bill. That stupid girl wanted that handsome man. But me? I just want you.”
There had been fifteen feet of grass between them. Sookie blinked, and suddenly there was no grass between them at all.
She reached up, almost to his biceps, but then lost her nerve and lowered her hands. “Say something.”
“What shall I tell you?” he asked. The anger was gone from his voice, leaving it toneless.
Despite herself, she sniffled. “You walked me home,” she began slowly. “You gave me my house. You almost spoke, but didn’t. Now, don’t be cold. And don’t be sweet. Tell me what you wanted to say to me.”
His eyes cut right to the back of her skull. His head and shoulders were curved completely into her. She knew if she could see them from the outside, she would look like that piece that filled into him so well. She wanted to touch him. To hold him. She didn’t.
At last, after much thought, he replied. “You’re filthy. You reek of the blood of vampires who weren’t fit to touch you. My immediate request would be to bathe you. And you’re cold. I hate when you’re uncomfortable. I’d want to stock the fireplace and light it for you.”
Sookie smiled and make a little noise of amusement. “That’s sweet. Too sweet. I’m afraid you need to throw some dirt in that sugar if you want me to believe it.”
Somewhere, deep in their blue depths, his eyes sparkled with challenge. “You wouldn’t bathe alone.”
“There you are,” she chided again, this time more playfully.
“It’s been so long since I’ve held you. Kissed you. Seen your body. Your house still smells like our fucking. It was hard to concentrate when all I could do was remember how beautifully you fit me. And I’m starving. I haven’t fed in days. Now I’m in the same space as the fairy woman who was such an exquisite fuck, she made me hallucinate a Swedish forest in the daytime. Her blood has no equal. And yet, I need her to offer me both, in the same spirit she gave them before, or I would want neither.”
Sookie nibbled her lip, trying to quell her grin. This was the man she was looking for. The one she barely knew. She’d spoken to him so sparsely, seen him so infrequently, that it was almost as illogical as love at first sight.
He saw her badly hidden smile. He shook his head sceptically. “You knew I’d say these things. You’ve always known what I want. Why do you looked so pleased?”
“True. You’ve always been upfront. But… your delivery has improved. You didn’t offend me once. Maybe…” she caught herself remembering his words, “… maybe you’re growing on me.”
“I’d prefer to grow for you. And then in you.”
She hauled back and whacked him hard on the arm. “Gross!”
“But not sweet, correct?” He was smiling now. Softly, but it was definitely a smile.
She grew a little more serious, but allowed herself to finally reach up and hold his upper arms. “I made a mistake that night,” she finally confessed. “I told you and Bill that I didn’t want to hurt anyone. That I couldn’t choose between the two of you. It was a lie. But you and Bill were standing there, a bad past and a terrifying future. I ran away. The bad past was easy to forgive and move on from, but you? The terrifying future? I was still half-waiting for the other shoe to drop. ‘Sure, you loved me, but…’ Or ‘You were grateful for my help, but…’. I just couldn’t bear it if you didn’t feel as strongly as before. So I took away your chance to tell me.”
His hands made a very slow, deliberate path to her hips. Once there, they latched on, firmly and with no hesitation. Sookie remembered. Oh, save her, did she remember. Those hands that destroyed things. And lady bits. And heart strings.
“I agreed to die for you at the demand of the witch. Was that not proof of how fucking much I love you?”
Sookie shrugged helplessly. “I have no defence. I plead insanity brought on by crazy shit overload. If I’d been paying attention, I would have remembered that you don’t cow for anything except Pam and Nora.”
“They’re family. I love them deeply.”
He reached up and smudged away the greasy blood on her cheek. “If you’re saying what I hope you’re saying… If you’re agreeing to be mine at last, then you will top that list.”
“Mine’s short, too, but you would top it, as well.”
She made a show of stepping back from him completely. His arms followed her, then dropped away. His eyes hardened at her retreat, but it wasn’t what he feared. She’d spun his hopes up once and dashed them spectacularly. She was never going to be that cruel again.
With the distance between them very respectable, she held out her hand. “I’m Sookie Stackhouse. I’m twenty-six. I kill people. I break hearts. And I’ll knock you on your ass with a fireball if you piss me off. Nice to meet you.”
He looked at her hand, then took it firmly in his own. His cold skin didn’t bother her one bit. “I’m Eric Northman. I’m over one thousand. I’ve killed many people. I’ve broken many hearts. And you can knock me on my ass anytime you like, as long as you fall with me. Charmed.”
Sookie yanked him toward her and leapt up at the same time, wrapping her legs around his hips. His lips got to hers first. He demanded entrance with his tongue, making aggressive swipes against their plump softness. She opened them and kissed back, giving every bit as good as she got. She locked her elbows behind his neck, smashing his face against her own.
“Yes,” he seethed with pleasure. He grabbed her ass and molested himself with her, making scandalous, erotic circles over their groins. It was neither sweet nor cold.
“Eric,” She gasped into his mouth. “You…I…missed…y-.” She made a startled little umph as his fangs descended and grazed her tongue.
She was rocked backwards as he surged back up the stairs, knocking the screen door open. She grunted in annoyance as their clothes proved a stubborn, slimy hindrance for her hands as she slid them down his shoulders, over the lines of his broad back. He ripped his mouth away and pressed his forehead urgently against hers.
“Let me clean you. Let me take care of you.”
She nodded frantically against him. “If you want to.”
His eyes blazed bright and hot for the first time since she’d held him That Night. “I want to. And more. No more parts, Sookie. I want everything.”
She let out a shaky breath, leaning into him while closing her eyes. “It scares me when you talk like that.”
“It angers me when you don’t.”
She opened them again, holding his stare. “I just did. And I will. If you’re patient with me. If you promise to keep-,”
“Throwing dirt in my sugar?”
“Yes,” she giggled.
“Then let me wipe this shit off that glorious skin and run my tongue over every inch of it.”
She squirmed out of his grip and bolted towards the stairs. “Race ya.”
He caught up. He caught her. He marched into the bathroom, closing the door and making a show of locking it before crowding her against its cool surface. Grabbing either side of her shirt, he popped each button, top to bottom, oblivious as they pinged on the tiles at their feet. He drew away the soppy material. Sookie glanced down. Her white bra was stained an ugly brackish red. Her skin was covered with a thin sheen of blood and gave her an odd pink tint.
Eric’s eyes narrowed with fury. “I should never have taken you to the Authority. I was wrong to risk you. I’ve hurt you by exposing you to Bill’s malignancy. To his mad ravings about your fairy lineage. I’ve slathered you in blood. Forgive me.”
“I’ve been called and covered in worse.”
His anger grew exponentially. “Never again. You are a queen. An Amazon. A beautiful, powerful seraph. Kali would shake in her boots next to you.”
He slid his fingers into her waistband and jerked her closer, unbuttoning her jeans. “I want that tin god next door to hear you when you scream for me. Let him remember that sound and regret he ever called you an abomination.”
“There you are.”
He knelt and peeled her wet pants away, taking her ruined panties, socks and shoes with them. Sookie held onto his shoulders for balance, shedding her bra, her fingers dancing impatiently over the wet material of his coat. When he stood, he let her push and tug at the hems of his clothes until he stood as naked and painted pink as her.
Without taking his eyes from her, he leaned back and turned the shower tap. This time, it sprang to life with no trouble. “You’re beautiful,” he said simply.
She blushed and smiled indulgently, stepping from one foot to the other, not sure what to do with her hands. Sweet Eric had told her that many times.
Eric saw her humouring him and amended, “You’re fucking beautiful.”
“All right, all right. You don’t have to add dirt all the time.” She looked up at him shyly through her long lashes. “It’s just going to take me awhile to get used to you – the real you – being so nice to me.”
“I’ve hidden my feelings for you for years. I know this. I imagine it sounds odd to hear them out loud. But believe me, I’ve thought them almost from the beginning.”
She reached out and hesitantly took his hand, leading him to the tub. “I’ve kept a lot to myself, too. It’s not just you. So whatever you want to hear, ask me, and I’ll be as honest as I can.”
They stepped in together, just like the Second Night. With Sookie under the spray, she tipped her head backwards and gasped as warm water poured over her hair and face. The runoff at their feet instantly turned red before circling the drain and disappearing. Eric watched the sleek, wet curves of his Amazon as she lifted her hands to her hair, combing it up, rinsing the caked muck out of those golden tresses. He reached for a shampoo bottle, filling his hands, before he cupped her head and took over. Sookie sighed with pleasure as his strong fingers rubbed into her scalp.
The red runoff turned foamy.
Never one to dawdle, Sookie grabbed her shower gel and lathered some between her palms before splaying her hands over his chest. She worked in big, uneven circles, wandering around the considerable real estate of him. She bit her tongue between her lips as her fingertips took in the hard, unforgiving musculature of his sternum, arms and waist.
“Hm,” she murmured vaguely. “It’s hard to fault those women for wanting these parts of you. You are a lion a man, Eric.”
His eyes dropped from his task in her hair to her embarrassed expression, weighing her words. “Do I please you? Do you like what you see?”
“You know I do. I’m not blind.”
“You’ve never said anything. If Bill represents your type, then I’m nothing like it. I have no idea what you’re thinking when you look at me.”
At that, she felt ashamed. Eric, for all his crudeness, had made it very clear that he thought she was smokin’ from head to toe. Her blonde hair. Her dark eyes. Her breasts and legs and smile. He’d lauded them all. Looking at him now, she couldn’t recall a single instance when she’d paid him a compliment.
Another cruelty she didn’t plan to repeat.
Her voice rose up, even though she wasn’t sure how to compliment a man who’d heard it all. “I… I didn’t know men like you existed outside of magazines. When I first met you, I was convinced the devil had stolen an angel’s face, then pasted it onto a gladiator’s body. Wherever you go, everyone’s eyes are dragged away with you. If those eyes had a choice, they’d pop out of people’s heads and follow you around forever. You’re stunning, Eric. I don’t really have a type, but it wouldn’t matter if I did. You transcend type. No one could possibly match you.”
Without blinking, he leaned her back and tipped her head into the spray. Water slid down her body, white suds clinging in all kinds of interesting places. He watched stoically as she closed her eyes and allowed him to rinse her off.
“So I’m the devil… and an angel… and a gladiator.”
Her tummy rippled cutely as she chuckled. “Not in equal amounts, obviously. I guess for the devil part, you’ll have to mix in some chili with that sugar dirt.”
“You are a dizzy collection of metaphors, lover.”
Clean as a whistle, she stepped out from under the shower and pushed him under for his turn. “What else do you want to know?”
Eric stooped to fit his head under the water, pleased to feel the grimy effects of their evening wash away. He held his arms out, encouraging Sookie’s diligent hands as they rubbed all the pink away. “Do you have any real feelings for Alcide as well?”
Her head dropped low, her hands slowing. “I’m sorry you saw that. I was drunk and lonely and he’s a nice man with good timing. Or bad timing, if you ask his shoes. If it makes a difference, I haven’t been with him, or anyone, since I’ve been with you.”
She peeked up at him sheepishly. “I do care for Alcide, but no. Not like you mean. He’s a friend. That’s all.” She continued her path down his waist, avoiding the anatomy that was straining for attention, moving to his hips and thighs. “What about you? Have you… been with…” she didn’t finish.
The tight body under her hands grew even harder as tension filled him. She didn’t have to look up from her task to know that the answer was yes. Swallowing carefully, she pushed her sorrow aside and waited quietly for him to explain.
After what felt like five minutes, he answered. “Three times.”
Pain sliced deeper than Sookie thought it would. She’d nearly committed the same act, but hearing that Eric had managed three times made her hurt in soft, unhealing places she didn’t know existed in a person. Eric must have known. His hands came up and cupped her shoulders, bringing her to him. She felt his desire to comfort her, but it didn’t help.
As he stroked her back, kissing her wet crown. “The twice was with Nora. She’s been my sister for hundreds of years. I haven’t seen her in decades. The night you rejected me, she saved me from an ambush. I was grateful. I was miserable. I wanted to forget you, to go back to what I understood. I love her, so I fucked her. The second time was after Lillith’s influence had left her. I was happy to have her back again, so we joined in relief.”
Eric felt the ragged, wet drag of air as Sookie drew a pained breath. He held her tighter. “It was meaningless. I imagine it was much the same with you and Alcide. You care for each other. Fucking is more enjoyable when you care. But I do not love Nora as I love you. I’ve never…” he didn’t finish either.
Sookie gulped back a ball of tears rising in her throat. “Was she…? I mean, do you prefer…?” she squeaked and refused another word. She couldn’t bear the answer.
At that, Eric pulled back and cupped her head, tangling her soaking hair between his fingers. “Was she better? Do I prefer cold, hard rutting with another cold, hard vampire than laying in your soft home and making love to a sultry sun goddess?”
His description told her no, he did not. Still, she felt vulnerable compared to a beautiful woman who knew Eric so much more intimately that she did. So she didn’t acknowledge his question.
He shook her slightly, forcing her to look at him. “No,” he replied. “I don’t prefer my vampire sister. I prefer my fairy sweetheart. In every way. Do you understand?”
She nodded shakily in his hands, but didn’t hold his gaze for more than a second. “You said three times,” she reminded him.
Eric deflated and drew her closer again, rocking her gently, even as his erection poked her insistently in the stomach. “The third was even more meaningless. Worse, it was political. A chancellor of the Authority gave a community theatre performance of seducing me. I was unclear on what she wanted from me, so I allowed it, hoping for answers. She gave a matinee for Bill hours before me. Vampire governance is pimping with an occasional board meeting, Sookie. I fucked her, but I’ve put more thought into signing insurance policies than I did her. I promise you now, if you’re mine, then I am yours. Completely.”
Sookie exhaled in a strange burst of rueful chuckling, wrapping her arms tentatively around his back. “I have no right to feel this upset, especially since I almost did the same. I turned you loose. You had every cause to go out and tap as much tail as you wanted.”
“I never would have if I’d known there was a chance with you.”
The held each other for a long time. The water heater finally ran out and Sookie shuddered as their shower turned chilly. Eric immediately killed the flow, rubbing his hands on her briskly. “I hate when you’re uncomfortable,” he repeated.
She looked up at her spanking-clean vampire. “Then dry me off and take me to bed.”
Eric Northman was not a man who needed instructions repeated. He pulled her two towels from the rack and wrapped his hips before drawing her close and patting every last inch of her dry. He wrapped her up under the arms with it afterward. Leading her by the hand, he took her to Gran’s room (they’d discovered before how great a bigger bed was), sat on the bed, pulled Sookie into his lap, and plucked Gran’s comb from the dresser. Sookie felt her bones melt at the slow, soothing pull of its teeth through her hair as her vampire teased out every last knot.
“You’re spoiling me,” she moaned. “Better stop unless you plan to do this every night.”
“Perhaps I’m establishing a debt.”
With closed eyes, she grinned. “Still gunning for a blowjob and a wrist-ini?”
The comb paused in her hair. “Would you offer them?”
She gave an innocent lift of her shoulders. “I would… I guess. If you wanted them. I’ve never done it that way. Sounds very… intense.”
The comb resumed, albeit slower. “For me, yes. For you, it would be twelve seconds of applying light suction.”
She laughed, louder than she had all night. “Can’t fool me, mister. I know from personal experience that that estimate is way below par.”
Once again, he did not join her laughter. Instead, he answered quietly. “Perhaps before. But now… I know just how much I’m being given. If you put your mouth on me while offering me your blood, I simply would not last. Twelve seconds is the best I could hope for.”
Her laughter tapered away into an uncomfortable silence. She cleared her throat, sorta realizing for the first time that she was nearly naked on a big bed with Eric Northman, who was pressing for nothing more than brushing her hair, despite what she felt stabbing her butt.
He felt her tension. “You prefer when I voice my thoughts, yes?”
“Then as much as I want you, we don’t have to talk about this now. You’ve yet to say the words, but I’m assuming we are one again. If that is the case, and if you are nervous about my expectations, then you needn’t be. I always want to fuck you, Sookie, but right now I want to comfort you more. We needn’t speak. Just stay in my arms and allow me to be with you. That is all I require.”
Her hair was now as shiny and flat as glass. He ran the comb through it several more times anyway, letting her enjoy the sensation, before setting it aside. He could feel her thinking long and hard as his hands coursed over the length of her bare arms. Her skin was chilled and he’d promised her a fire. The wood bucket was stocked next to the fireplace, probably from their last night together. He moved to set her away from him, so that he could build it up and warm her, as their cold shower and his cold body worked against him. As he placed his hands on her elbows to move her, Sookie clamped her own on the bed on either side of him.
“What if…” she spoke in halting, uncertain words. “What if… it’s not all I require?”
She leaned forward slightly, then lifted, just enough to turn in his space and lower to her knees at his feet.
The picture she made, unintentional or otherwise, made his cock strain painfully in its confining skin. “What are you doing?”
She looked up at him with her luminous eyes. Lovely face scrubbed clean and glowing. Golden hair beginning to curl at the ends as it dried. Wrapped in a white fluffy towel, she presented like a virginal birthday present, one that he would never have dared ask for. Under his own towel, she couldn’t help but see the evidence.
“You always give so much,” she whispered to him. “You’ve helped me. You’ve hired me. You’ve saved me, more times than I remember. You loved me, whole hog and then some. I’ve never given you anything in return. Not really.”
“You stayed with Godric. You’ve saved my life, as well. You’ve proven kind and loyal to me, even when I did not deserve it,” he said.
She shook her head. “That wasn’t the same. I stayed for Godric, not you. I gave you charity when you were lost, but I wasn’t especially kind. I’ve never allowed myself to give you anything. I was too afraid, thinking you’d see it as capitulation.”
Her hands crept, soft as mice, over the terry cloth covering his thighs. “What if I wanted to give you something now? Care for you, as you’ve cared for me?”
“The request I made earlier was a hypothetical said in anger, Sookie. I do not expect you to-,”
“No,” she cut in gently. “I know you don’t expect it. But you’d like it, right? It would make you happy?”
His gaze grew warm, belying how volatile her suggestion made him. “I am happy.”
Her alarming, agile little fingers had found the sheet bend in his towel, unravelling it with no effort. “Then you don’t want it. What I’m offering.”
His fangs ground loudly against their dock on his lower teeth. “You’re not playing fair.”
“You never play fair,” Sookie goaded, quirking her lips on one side. “How many times have you given me something I didn’t ask for?”
“I wanted to take care of you, even then.”
“And I,” she drew the word out, “want to take care of you.” She pulled the towel away at the sides, leaving him gloriously naked before her.
“Stop fighting,” she said, amused at how her demands contradicted themselves. She held her wrist just under his chin. “You’re hungry. You’re hot and bothered. I’ve been a bitch to you more times than I care to recall. If you really mean it, if you want all of me, then you’re going to have to accept some spoiling of your own.”
Without looking away from her, Eric reached up and ran a single finger down her forearm. “This is more than spoiling. This is ruining.”
Sookie reached down and tugged her own towel away, leaving them both bare as the day they were born. “Save your praise. Just speak up when I’m doing something right.” She’d once asked Bill for the same courtesy when they made love and he’d brushed her off with some vague assurance that whatever she did came naturally to her and was just fine, whatever that meant. Somehow, she knew Eric would not feed her ego or insecurities with such non-instruction. He would participate.
She wiggled her hand at his lips. “This first. Let me watch.”
He didn’t move for several seconds, drilling her with a hard, predatory glare, before gently taking her wrist on either side and bringing it to his mouth. He kissed her pulse. He opened his mouth and bit down tenderly.
Sookie gasped as the cool points of his fangs slid into the thin flesh of her arm. Normally she didn’t prefer being bitten on the arm. It wasn’t nearly as comfortable or intimate as other places. But watching Eric as he took his first delicate, wet pull from her blood while he stared into her eyes, it suddenly felt far more intense than any feeding before.
He moaned hotly against her, taking another careful mouthful.
Sookie smiled. “I do love you,” she said. “I never stopped.”
With that, she lowered her head and eased her hot, eager mouth over his cock.
The affect on Eric was immediate. He hissed like he’d been burned, baring his lips around his bite, but quickly replacing them so he didn’t lose the seal. “Fuck,” he muttered, drawing again.
She took more of him, painting him lovingly with her tongue, flicking her eyes up to see if he approved. What she saw gave her confidence. His grip tightened on her arm, fighting to stay calm and unforceful. His hips bucked, wanting more. She lowered her eyes again and concentrated on giving him pleasure, alternating between hard and gentle sucks, taking as much as she could, then pulling back and rubbing her teeth against the soft bell. She lifted up the impressive weight and ran her tongue lightly over the protruding vein on the underside before swirling against his tightly-drawn balls.
At that, he broke away from her wrist and snarled. “Jesus,” he gritted, his mouth bloody and his eyes stabbing into hers. “Look at you. Look at what you do to me. Perfect little Sookie. How is it possible to fuck and drink sunshine?”
She moaned prettily as she took him deep. He fell into her arm again, though he didn’t insert his fangs. He simply gorged himself on the twin flow, content to drink and not drag it out by force. Sookie noticed. Even in the throes of hunger and lust, he was careful.
She sped up.
“Fuck! Yes!” He was getting louder.
Her hand snaked up his body, stroking up his chest, caressing the notch between his collarbones.
His eyes rolled back. “Sweet girl,” he crooned, licking her wrist like an ice cream cone. “You’re going to kill me with how sweet you are.”
She saw his stomach muscles tense and roll as his orgasm gathered. She was shocked that he’d been right, he simply wasn’t going to last. As the soft rasp of his tongue dipped into her palm and turned into a kiss, she heard him whisper, “I love you, Miss Stackhouse.”
She cupped his neck with her free hand and sucked until her cheeks hollowed out.
Eric roared, informing the tin god next door that his ex gave phenomenal head. The Viking made sure of it, bellowing as he erupted astoundingly hard into the softest, hottest angel he’d ever seen.
He pressed her hand over his mouth, breathing her in, as she slowed her pace, guiding him out of the stratosphere. When she gave him one last final pull with her lips, she kissed his tip, then released him. Eric collapsed backwards, groping blindly until he caught her under the arms and dragged her up. She couldn’t even smirk at her handiwork, not once he’d found her lips and devoured them in a moaning, grateful kiss.
“You’ve ruined me,” he said hoarsely, looking at her with a sated, I-told-you-so glower. “Do you plan to do that every night?”
“Maybe. Are you going to make it so damn sexy to watch? If so, then I’m afraid you’re my new lollipop.” She reached down and squeezed him with just enough force to show she was serious.
He winced at the overstimulation, hissing with pleasure, before capturing her face in his hands. “I’ll deal with you in a moment. But first, I need you to say it.”
She bit her lips, looking down at the tussled, sexy man that she’d managed to destroy in just thirty seconds flat. “I’m yours. I was wrong to leave you. If you’ll have me, I never will again.”
She fully expected him to gloat. She fully expected to be teased and crowed at and be forced to sit through a victory parade. She expected, at the very least, for Eric to smirk.
Instead, he stroked her cheeks as his head fell back onto the mattress, his eyes drifting shut in bliss.