Sitting on the edge of Eric’s couch, my leg bounced nervously as I sat waiting for him to rise for the night. On the one hand, I was nervous about how I was dressed; I hoped I was dressed appropriately for tonight’s meeting and our first date. On the other, I was worried about being in a room full of vampires. This wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. I was always nervous when I was the only human in any situation and surrounded by vampires.
After spending the week with Eric. I saw how crazy busy he was as he dealt with his Sheriff’s duties, made preparations for the summit we were attending in a little over a week, and tried to find where Quinn was hiding and if he was possibly working for the King of Nevada. On top of all that Eric was trying to figure out why his Queen had sent Quinn to give me the message that I would be a part of her party instead of his without said Queen finding out he was questioning her actions.
Seeing how busy he was and having nothing else to do since I was taking time off from Merlotte’s until we knew for sure I was safe, I offered to help Eric out. After one night of helping process the paperwork of all the new vampires coming into his area, he had moved a laptop and chair into his office for me as we shared his desk. Eric sat where he normally did with our laptops sitting back to back with me sitting in front of his desk. I think he would have moved a desk into his office if he had space or given me my own room if there weren’t so many new vampires in his area and in the bar that he didn’t trust. Or maybe he liked me close to him. All I knew was that Eric greatly appreciated my help at a time when almost every minute of his nights was consumed by work. I had a feeling that Eric didn’t have a lot of free time on any given night, and I was ashamed of my earlier thoughts about what he did most of his nights.
Although we were normally only a few feet away from each other on most nights, Eric and I had yet to talk about how he felt after getting back his memories. I wasn’t going to push him into talking and with how busy he had been this week I didn’t know when he could have possibly of had the time to process what had happened during that fateful week he had stayed with me. Yes, I was dying to know how he felt, but I figured since he hadn’t pushed me away or asked me to go home that was a good sign. I had mentioned that I could leave if he wanted me too and the only response I received had been in pissing Eric off and him making me promise I would not leave during the daytime and that he wanted me there no matter how busy he was or what he was going through.
Sam hadn’t been too happy when I called him back the day after my house was broken into and I first asked and then let him know that I would not be coming back until I got back from the vampire summit. I had a feeling Sam was going to be a problem when he found out that I had been staying with Eric and that we were now in a relationship, but I’d deal with Sam when the time came.
At least, I hope we were in a relationship. Eric had always been honest with me when anyone else would have tried to spare my feelings, and he’d promised always to tell me the truth, and I knew he would do everything in his power to live by his promises. I also knew that Eric didn’t make promises that he didn’t think he’d be able to keep.
I sucked in a deep breath and stood to straighten out the skirt of my dress when I heard his bedroom door open. I had on a new dress. One of many that I found hanging in my closet one night after getting back from Fangtasia. I had left with only my few paltry items hanging in the closet and came back finding it filled to the brim with dresses, slacks, blouses, jeans, t-shirts, and very expensive lingerie. Don’t even get me started on all the shoes that lined the floor and filled every nook and cranny in the closet. There were even a few items that I didn’t know what they were, and I was too afraid to ask Pam what they were for. I was going back to my house in a couple of weeks, and Pam had stocked more clothes than I could possibly wear in a year or fit in my closet at home. Don’t even get me started on what I found in my bathroom. There were more expensive lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and cosmetics than I knew what to do with. Pam stated that it was work wear for when I was at Fangtasia and the summit, but I saw the gleam in her eyes and knew there was more to it than that, but I wasn’t going to fight her or Eric on it. Especially since I didn’t have enough nice clothes to last me until we returned and I didn’t want to dip into my savings for clothes that I’d probably never wear again.
Since I knew that red was Eric’s favorite color I picked out a silky red dress that ended just below my knees. It had long sleeves, a matching silk belt at my waist, it was simple yet elegant, and I knew that Eric would enjoy it. I had a feeling that was the reason Pam had bought it, to begin with along with most of the clothes in the closet.
A small smile spread as I watched Eric come to a halt once he laid eyes on me. All my nerves had miraculously disappeared as his gaze slowly looked me over. The look in his eyes was so heated that I felt as if he was caressing me from across the room. I was sure my look equally matched his passion as I took him in. Normally Eric wore jeans and t-shirts that barely contained his muscular physique but tonight he had on a dark gray suit with a black shirt underneath. The top two buttons were undone giving a peek at the light blond hair on his chest. My only thought was ‘Damn my Viking is looking mighty fine tonight, and I couldn’t wait to get him to myself.’
I stopped breathing as I watch Eric take three long strides across the room. His eyes never disengaging from mine even as he took my hand in his and bent to place a single kiss on the back of my hand. His lips slanted up when I took in a ragged breath and tore my eyes away from the walking God standing in front of me.
“Sookie you look absolutely stunning tonight. I must say that I’m going to have a hard time concentrating on our meeting with you looking as you do,” he stated with his lips still lingering on my hand.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Should I change?”
“Absolutely not. It gives me more incentive to get the meeting over and done with,” he replied with a leer. “Are you ready for our date tonight?”
“Yes,” I answered breathlessly before clearing my throat. I wanted to forget all about the meeting and get to our date. I couldn’t wait to see what Eric had planned. Eric had always seemed to understand me and what I needed and wanted, and I had no doubt he’d pick something that we would both enjoy.
“I want to apologize for not having the time to speak to you about how I’m feeling. I do hope that you’ll give me the opportunity, later on, tonight.” His deep voice rumbled as he stood to his full height.
“Of course, I know how busy you’ve been, and I don’t know when you’ve found time, but I do want to know how you’re feeling,” I stated quietly. Once again my nerves were back. What if Eric didn’t like what he was feeling and no longer wanted to date me?
“Sookie, you have nothing to be nervous about. I promise you. You’re safe with me; I’ll always protect you,” he vowed with his brow furrowed. “If you are ready to go, we should leave so that we can arrive before our guests.”
I could only nod my head. I knew I was safe with Eric of that I had no doubt, and I hated that he thought I had reservations about him.
Never letting go of my hand Eric ushered me to the door leading out to the garage and only paused long enough for me to slip my too high heels on before securing me in his car. He was quiet as he drove which wasn’t abnormal for him. Normally Eric was quiet as we made our way to Fangtasia and listened to classical music, but tonight I could see the tension around his eyes and noticed that his grip on the steering wheel was causing his knuckles to turn white. Was this because he thought I doubted my safety when I was with him? I couldn’t let Eric believe that. I didn’t want to cause him any distress especially because when I thought of safety the first thought that popped into my head was Eric.
Shifting to the side and facing Eric, my hand on his upper arm I took a deep breath and tried to clarify why I was nervous. “Eric, I… I want you to know that I have never felt safer than when I’m with you. I have no doubt that you will protect me until it’s no longer safe for you.”
All words and thoughts left me as a sound that was somewhere between a growl and snarl tore through the cabin of Eric’s car.
“I will protect you until I am no more,” Eric stated gruffly as he looked out the windshield, his accent coming through stronger than usual.
If Eric didn’t want a relationship with me, then he wouldn’t be telling me he’d protect me until his death. I couldn’t think of Eric ever dying. Life would never be the same if he weren’t alive. The world would be wrong. I decided to push those thoughts away and focus on the good. I mean it’s sad that in our lives there was so much danger that this was even a conversation. Normal people didn’t have their boyfriends, significant other’s or whatever stating that their protection or willingness to die to save them.
“I’ll protect you too,” I said quietly but with conviction.
With my statement, Eric took his eyes off the road and gave me a small smile. “I know you would. You have, and I’ll never forget the many times you’ve saved me. Thank you, my beautiful Sookie.”
Taking my hand off his arm, Eric held my hand in his against the gear shift as we finished our ride to Fangtasia in silence. I decided I would keep to myself that I was nervous about our impending talk about how he felt now that his memories were back.
Once inside his office, Pam started bringing in chairs that lined the walls of Eric’s office placing one on each side of his chair behind his large desk before she turned to me looking me over. I was surprised it had taken her this long.
“Sookie, I knew you’d look exceptionally well in that dress. It’s perfect for my Master and your date tonight,” said Pam with a fangy smile.
“I’m glad you approve,” I said looking around at all the chairs she’d placed around the room. “Do you know who all’s coming to this meeting?”
Shrugging her shoulders Pam started to walk out of the room before turning around to speak. “All the people in Eric’s retinue who he plans to bring to the Summit and the Queen’s second will be making an appearance. Why?”
“I must go. The others are arriving. Eric will be back in just a moment.”
The door hadn’t even closed from Pam leaving before Eric walked in tall and in charge exuding confidence and strength. I noticed as he passed me that his hair was now being held back by a black leather band at the base of his neck.
“Come sit on my left, Sookie,” Eric said patting the seat to his side, once he sat behind his big desk and started up his computer while pulling out some papers.
No sooner had I sat down then Clancy came in sitting down in front of Eric’s desk.
“I didn’t know you’d be here Sookie,” Clancy said with a nasty grin and showing a little fang.
I did not like Clancy, but I tried to be polite. “I’m going to the summit to help Eric and the Queen.”
“Hmm, maybe I’ll see you around then.”
Eric raised his head from his paperwork glaring at Clancy until Clancy lowered his gaze to the floor. I had a feeling the meeting was only going to get worse, and I was right. Pam opened the door to let in Maxwell Lee, Indira, and Felicia, who all sat on the couch on the other side of the room. I had no problem with any of them. It was who walked through the door next that I had a major issue with. I quickly snatched one of Eric’s papers off his desk and began to pretend and read it as if it was the most important thing in the world.
Eric’s head swung in my direction, and I was pretty sure he was planning on taking back the paper in my hands, but instead his hand reached down to my chair leg and pulled my chair closer to his before going back to what he was doing.
I didn’t look up from the sheet of paper until I noticed Pam walking into the room and sitting on the other side of Eric. Scanning the room, I noted Thalia was leaning against the wall beside he who shall not be named with Andre in a chair to the other side of her and Jake Purifoy to his left.
“Hey Sookie,” Jake called from his seat.
“Hey Jake,” I said giving him a small nod. Irrational fear spiked in me as I sat in my chair and remembered when Jake had woken up as a vampire and attacked me. That was also the night that I learned that he who shall not be named had been sent to Bon Temps by his queen, and our whole relationship had been a lie.
I knew Jake wouldn’t hurt me, and it wasn’t his fault his attacked me that night in Hadley’s apartment, but a shutter worked its way through my body.
“Miss Stackhouse,” Andre said politely from his seat. I wasn’t sure what to think of the Queen’s personal bodyguard and Childe. He looked very young and handsome, but I knew not to underestimate him. Underneath his youthful appearance, he was lethal, and I hoped to keep him on my good side.
“Hello, Andre. How is Her Majesty?” I said with a smile as I leaned closer to Eric.
“That is one of the reasons I’m here tonight. Thank you for asking Miss Stackhouse. Eric, can we get on with the meeting now that everyone has arrived?”
“Of course, Andre the floor is all yours,” Eric said as he leaned back in his seat and looked around the room.
“As many of you know, your queen has lived in the Sheriff of Area Four’s house in Baton Rouge since Hurricane Katrina. She would very much like to return to New Orleans, but all of her residences have sustained too much damage for her to do so safely. The contractors that I’ve contacted are booked for months with all the destruction. We need to find a solution to get Her Majesty back to the heart of Louisiana and show that we are not a weakened state. Do any of you have any ideas?
I watched as every vampire in the room continued to look at Andre with a blank face. I was surprised when Eric spoke up from beside me.
“I have a secure estate on the outskirts of New Orleans that Her Majesty may use and I believe would be acceptable. I’ll put in a call to a contractor I know in the area which owes me a great debt. If you could leave me the information on what residences Her Majesty would like done first, I’m sure he can get a crew together and working by the beginning of next week.”
I watched as a small grin tipped Andre’s lips. “I think if you weren’t already the queen’s favorite sheriff you definitely would be now. I’ll inform her of your generous offer and let you know by the end of the meeting what she’d like to do.”
I looked over at Eric smiling and noticed Pam’s look of concern. I had no idea what she could be concerned about, but it would have to wait for later.
“Once the queen is back in New Orleans we would like for you to send all the new vampires that have come into your area down to Area One. As you know after Hurricane Katrina we lost a large number of vampires. We were hoping that some were still hiding out and would resurface, but we haven’t had as many as we hoped. We are down in numbers, and it isn’t looking good for us at the summit. That is why Her Majesty has requested Miss Stackhouse to be a part of her party instead of your’s Sheriff.”
“Do you think the trial will be held?” Eric asked, gripping the arm of his chair so hard I thought it might break.
“Yes,” Andre stated from the middle of the room. “We are no longer a powerful Louisiana, and Arkansas is demanding a trial.”
Without thinking, I asked, “Do you think it’s possible that one of the states that are attending the Summit has something like a weather witch?” All eyes were locked on me. I looked to Eric hoping he’d help me out of this uncomfortable situation, but he only had a reassuring smile on his face and nodded for me to continue.
“When the summit was first supposed to occur, Louisiana was powerful but now that there has been continued delays, and the state is not as… commanding in presence as it used to be.”
“That could be possible, and it’s something for you to keep a look out for at the summit. Another reason our queen needs you. Eric, what do you think?”
“Sookie is excellent at thinking outside of the box,” Eric said proudly. “It is very well possible for one of the states to have a witch who could control the weather. We can only hope there is a not another delay.”
“Because of Hurricane Katrina, we will not be having the queen’s full contingent at the summit. She wants Miss Stackhouse with her at all times when other humans will be around to read them. Stan is bringing his telepath, and maybe the two of you could work together.” Andre stated with a raised brow.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said with a tight lip smile. I wanted to see Barry, but I wasn’t happy about all the time I’d be with the queen and away from Eric.
“Who will be going to the summit if we are cutting our numbers?” Clancy asked, looking agitated.
“You, Felicia, Thalia, Maxwell, and Bill will stay. Thalia remember the rules while we are gone,” Eric said with a knowing glance her way. Thalia’s only response was a curt nod. I didn’t know much about Thalia except she seemed like a rogue who barely followed the rules that were set for her. I think she was older than Eric, but there was no way I was going to ask her. She scared me, but she seemed loyal to Eric, and that’s all that mattered to me.
From beside me, a horribly fake southern accented voice spoke, “I’m required to go to the summit. The queen has requested for me to sell my database.” I couldn’t believe I had once been attracted to him. Now I couldn’t stand the sound of his voice or look at his stupid sideburns.
“Fine,” Eric said as if he didn’t care. “You will go. That makes the Louisiana contingent our queen, Andre, Sigebert, Sookie, myself, Pam, Cataliades and his niece, the sheriff of Area Four since he’s been hosting the queen in his area and house, Rasul and Bill. I will also have one Were for daytime security.”
At the close of the meeting, Eric went through all the pertinent information about the date we were leaving and coming back, and our flight times. I was going to ask for a piece of paper to take notes on, but Eric handed me the paper he had been reading from with his elegant script gracing the page.
“I believe that’s all for tonight. Eric, I’ll be in contact before we leave for the summit.” Andre placed himself in front of the desk staring right at me and unnerving me more than a little bit. “Miss Stackhouse I’ll see you at the summit if you have any questions I’m sure Eric would be happy to help you,” he said with a knowing smile.
I didn’t know what was up with that smile of Andre’s. Did he know about Eric and me? I couldn’t think about it right now because suddenly he who shall not be named was now standing at my side facing me.
Eric stood and spoke quietly to Andre by the door. I assume they were talking about his offer to let the queen stay in his house. Whatever it was they spoke in hushed tones and not in English.
Everyone else had left the room except Pam and, of course, the vampire trying to get my attention to my left.
“Sookie,” he said with a sigh. “You can’t ignore me forever. Will you, please talk to me and let me explain.”
Scooting back my chair, I then stood and faced he who shall not be named. “There’s nothing for you to explain. Everything has been made perfectly clear. Now if you don’t mind, I have a date to go on.”
“Date,” I heard him whisper with disappointment in his tone.
Walking toward Eric now that he was alone, I smiled up at his handsome face. Why did I ever try to resist him? How? I did know that if I had given myself to him on the first night, we met we most probably wouldn’t be where we are today. I would be nothing to him but another nameless face, so I’m glad I resisted for a small time but never again. If after our talk Eric still wanted to be with me I’d do everything in my power to make it, so neither one of us were hurt by my actions again.
“Ready?” Eric asked holding his elbow out for me to take.
“Yes,” I said as I clasped my hand around his arm. I had a feeling that tonight would be the start of a new life. One that would forever be Eric and Sookie.