Eric stood at my side as the elevator descended to the lobby, his body tense and his emotions ricocheting from highly annoyed to extremely pissed off. If he was human I could imagine him with his fists clenched by his sides, his hands opening and closing to release some of the tension, but there was no way he was going to let anyone that was around us know how he was feeling. Instead, when I snuck a peek to look up at him out of the corner of my eye, he was looking straight ahead stoically.
I often wondered how long it had taken him to learn to mask his thoughts and emotions. Was he like this when he was human? Definitely when he was out raiding but I doubt he held that stoic look on his face 24/7. I was just happy that he let his mask drop more and more when he was around me.
Earlier when we had left our hotel room and met with the Queen in her suite, she proceeded to tell me that I was going to need to read every human on the premises. Okay so maybe she didn’t say every single person, but it sure felt like it to me and going by what I felt from Eric he felt the same way.
To say that the Queen wasn’t happy when Eric informed her that we would be moving to another hotel and that she should do the same was an understatement. More like she threw a royal fit that I’m sure could be heard at least three floors away. I stood amazed as I watched Andre speak quietly to her in what sounded like French until she calmed and gave a firm nod toward one of her people. You’d think she’d be happy we warned her we thought something was off but not even a little bit.
I had received a text from Alcide, while Eric spoke to Sophie-Ann, letting me know that we were all moved to another hotel, and his room was right next to mine with Pam’s on the other side of ours. If anything happened we should be safe, but I was going to be vigilant in trying to figure out what was going on. Hopefully, Barry would be able to help me. I needed to find him and fill him in on what little I knew and get him and his vampires out of the hotel if it was at all possible. If it were up to me, I would cancel this whole shindig, but it wasn’t, and I knew that we couldn’t evacuate every vampire staying in the hotel, or it would look conspicuous. We were still going to try to make it look as if we were staying at the hotel so that Quinn or anyone else who was looking for us wouldn’t know that we had moved.
Once the elevator doors opened, Eric and I followed behind the Queen and her entourage. It seemed to me that having over twenty people following behind you was a little much, but what did I know. Maybe it was a power play to show that Louisiana wasn’t as weak as some thought it was. I knew that having Eric by her side was a giant pro for her, and she wanted to keep it that way.
The closer we got to the area where all the vampires would mingle the more pressure I felt pressing in on my mind. Before now I hadn’t realized just how many humans would be here. I wasn’t ready to drop my shields and be assaulted by all the thoughts, but I knew I would soon have to. Sensing my unease, Eric’s hand slipped around my own and grasped it lightly before his thumb started to softly caress back and forth against my knuckles.
“My, my, my, you sure are attached to your little human,” the Queen sneered from behind us. I could almost feel her distaste for Eric showing any kind of affection for me.
“Indeed, my Queen,” Eric said nonchalantly. It was silent for only a moment before we heard a harrumph and Eric became even angrier. “We are growing closer to a large crowd, and I’m trying to help my bonded before she’s overwhelmed. If you want her to work at the best of her ability then yes, I will be attached to her. Not that I wouldn’t be otherwise. She is my bonded, and her telepathy is already known by too many,” he said pointedly.
“Northman, I suggest you take pause before you think to speak to me that way again. Bonded or not, Ms. Stackhouse is an asset of my monarchy, and I will do with her as I wish.”
Just as I was about to open my mouth to urge Eric to calm down and not do anything rash such as get us killed or for me to live the rest of my life in servitude to Sophie-Ann, I received a gentle push of warning through our bond. Looking up I caught him staring down at me out of the corner of his eye and watched as he mouthed ‘Not now’ or at least that’s what I thought he had silently said to me. I could read minds but not lips not that it mattered. I knew he didn’t want me to say anything and I wouldn’t. I didn’t want either one of us doing something that would make our time here any less enjoyable than it already was.
Turning my head forward to the front of the elevator as the doors opened, Eric sent me a burst of approval. Had I really been that bad in the past that he thought I had no self-preservation instincts? Okay thinking back on it there were a few times I let my mouth and/or actions get me in trouble before I could think better of it but what’s a girl to do when she’s thrust into the supernatural world without warning.
We followed the queen and her entourage down the hallway and into a conference room that was being used for a meet and greet. Sophie-Ann went straight to an area with one ornate chair that seemed to be waiting for her and sat down with a look of total boredom.
“Ready,” Eric questioned quietly as he squeezed my hand. It was show time. Tensing my body for the onslaught of thoughts, I slowly lowered my shields and let the thoughts of the minds of those that were the closest trickle into my head and continued to let more and more in until every human thought that was in the room was swimming rampantly through my head. By the end, I was squeezing Eric’s hand hard enough that if he was human, I was sure I would have broken at least a bone or two. He took it like I knew he would and I knew he would have done the same even if he were human. As if nothing was happening. As if we were sitting on his couch watching a movie and holding hands. I felt nothing coming from him. He was emotionless as he stood sentry beside me and became my anchor.
It meant more than I could process at that moment. Not even Gran had supported me in this way. Not that she could. Instead of being able to relish in how much Eric had come to mean to me since I’d walked into his bar, decided to give us a go, and how much he’d open himself up to me since he’d gotten his memories of our time together; I could only smile and send my love to him as I weeded through each thought trying to find a clue as to what was going on, to see if anyone was thinking anything about our queen to the left of us and anything about a weather witch. It was too much if I was honest with myself, but I had to do preserver and get through this night and the rest of the week.
We stood silently as King after King came to Sophie-Anne’s side. It was monotonous as each one kissed her ass. It was widely thought that she had killed her last husband and I couldn’t understand why they would want to take that same chance. Maybe they thought they could do the same. It was very hard to understand the way vampires thought, but I believed whole-heartedly most thought they were invincible, and for the most part, they were sans sunlight, a stake to the heart, or losing their head.
It wasn’t until the King of Kentucky was chatting with Sophie-Anne that I noticed a strange buzzing around him. My eyes picked up nothing, but the longer he was in our company, the more intense the buzzing became and I realized there was something taking up space around him. A spell, maybe? Tilting my head slightly, I looked to Eric after he squeezed my hand. He was looking down at me with a quizzical eyebrow raised.
Did he not sense whatever that strange buzzing was and odd space around Kentucky? I wanted more than anything to ask but now was not the time. I could do no more than quickly look at him without letting those that surrounded us know that I sensed something strange.
“Isaiah, good to see you,” Sophie-Ann said with her fangs out. Ugh! Did she seriously like him? Think he was sexy? He looked like Davy Crockett with his leather pants and suede shirt. Not a good look on him at all.
As I stepped closer to Sophie-Ann and the King of Kentucky, I felt Eric move along with me. It was then I noticed two mental signatures standing behind him. Although I could detect their signatures, I couldn’t read their minds. Who could cloak themselves where no one in the room seemed to know that they were present? Witches, perhaps? That definitely went along with my spell theory. I’d have to ask Eric to be certain or make a call to Amelia.
I noticed Kentucky give me a look out of the side of his eye before he stated, “I would love to talk more with you, my dear, but not with this little blonde gal around.”
Sophie-Ann’s eyes grew a fraction larger while I heard Eric growl from behind me. Great, just want I needed a pissed of Queen and an incensed Eric.
“Why ever would you need Sookie to leave for us to converse? She’s a mere human that works for me,” she replied haughtily.
“I know who she is,” Kentucky answered giving Sophie-Ann a look that showed he knew of my abilities, “and I don’t trust her.”
Well! As if! Surely he didn’t believe I could read vampire minds. If any vampire thought that I’d surely, be dead by now.
“We’ll speak later then,” Sophie-Ann said shaking her head, causing her hair to float around her face and then settle perfectly on her shoulders. “Closer to dawn in my suite.”
By the lascivious smile on Kentucky’s face, he was looking forward to doing more than just talking when they met up again. I hope Sophie-Ann left enough time to leave before dawn but if not that was her problem for not listening to our advice. Vampires! They always think they know best all the damn time.
Oh well, I had minds to read and a Queen to please. Finding Barry’s mind, I found he was doing the same as I was although not having as easy of a time since he didn’t have a vampire attached to him. Not that he probably wanted one. Since most of the humans were now in adjacent rooms, Barry and I tracked and read the minds of the employees as they came and went from the room. Can you guess what we found? They were all singularly focused on their jobs and nothing else. If I were a betting woman I’d bet they’d been glamoured but why? The only reason I could think of was someone was trying to hide something. Barry had the same thought I had. Someone or someones were up to no good, and we were going to found out what.
My eyes were traveling the room since we couldn’t mingle to make my job easier when I spotted Quinn on the other side of the room staring at me. Seriously what did I briefly see in him? Now all I got was a creepy and dangerous vibe from him? I was almost glad that we were staying elsewhere so that I had an even smaller chance of running into him without Eric. Not that Alcide couldn’t do the job because I believed he had a fighting chance but still it was best to keep as far away from Quinn as possible especially since we believed he was working for someone who’s intent was to take me for my telepathy.
Barry and I stayed across the room from each other as we finished reading everyone that was in the room and so far there was no weather witch and no one was thinking about usurping the Queen of Louisiana. After it had seemed that most of the important vampires in the room had visited with Sophie-Ann, she cleared her throat which she didn’t need to do letting me know she wanted my attention. Instead of saying anything she gave me a questioning but annoyed look. I guess she couldn’t come right out and ask if I’d heard anything but still she didn’t have to be so rude. After shaking my head, she declared she was done with me for the moment.
“Andre has something he needs to speak to you about out in the hallway,” she said as she stood gracefully from her chair and started out of the room. When she noticed Eric still standing with Andre and me, her eyes flared before she flounced back over to us. “Northman, we are done here. Now follow me.”
“You have asked her to speak to Andre, and I will not be leaving my bonded’s side,” Eric replied calmly, not taking his eyes off her.
“Do you not trust her?” Sophie-Ann asked with amusement.
“I trust her impeccably, your Highness.”
Sophie-Ann quickly looked around the room before throwing her arm out in a strange, maddening way before swiftly leaving the room. I continued to stare after her wondering if she could act any more childish today when I felt Eric’s hand on the small of back indicating that I should follow Andre out into the hall. We were quiet for a few moments before Eric spoke.
“Did you wish to speak to Sookie? I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.”
I had a feeling that if I had been anyone else Eric would have added something about being with a human. It didn’t surprise me. I’d spent enough time around vampires to know how they talked and their disdain for humans.
“As a matter of fact I do,” Andre said to Eric before turning to me. “Sophie-Ann would like you to read anyone that you can in the convention area where the booths are set up. After that, you are free to leave.” After a brief pause, he added. “I also wanted to thank the both of you for warning us about the potential threat. You didn’t have to do that.”
Stunned for a moment, I said nothing. “No, we didn’t have to, but it was the right thing to do.”
“You’ve found yourself a fine human to bond with Northman. Now, I best be getting back to our Queen. If you found out any information you know how to get in touch,” he replied before vamping off.
Still stunned by Andre thanking me, I eventually stopped trying to wrap my head around it and said, “Well, I guess I need to get busy reading more minds. Can you show me where to go?”
Slipping an arm around my waist, Eric drew me closer before leaning down and placing a soft kiss on my lips. It was in a way shocking. Normally he kept that type of affection to when we were home. Whatever brought it on made my lips tip up before I quietly asked, “What was that for? Not that I’m complaining but…”
“You weren’t expecting it,” he interrupted. “Maybe I want to keep you on your toes.” The right side of his mouth tipped up slightly before he pulled me to his side and started us down the hall.
“If that’s the way you’re going to keep me on my toes then I don’t mind at all. Please keep me on the tips of my toes,” I replied in a hushed voice as Eric escorted me toward the convention part of the hotel.
Right away I was not impressed. Upon entering the room and to the right was Bill’s booth where he was selling his vampire directory. When he first spotted me, I saw his face light up until he registered Eric behind me. Turning his back to us, Bill pretended to be busy doing something. Anything but pay attention to us which was fine by me. We continued to walk by each booth, but there was nothing to be heard. All the workers were either thinking about doing their job or what they wanted to be doing or who they wanted to be doing once they were done. It seemed like the whole night was a bust.
We were getting ready to head to our new hotel when Eric was stopped by someone from Extreme(ly) Elegant Events who looked worried and beyond nervous. I was actually afraid she might pee herself.
“Excuse me, Sheriff Northman,” the timid woman spoke looking up at him from behind a mess of unruly, brown hair.
I could understand why she was so nervous. The look on Eric’s face from being stopped was not what you’d want to be on the receiving end of. He was ready to leave, and I didn’t blame him. I was ready to get away from everyone and relax.
“Yes,” Eric grunted out looking as if he was getting ready to walk away before she could utter another word.
“I… I mean we, Extreme(ly) Elegant Events, are in charge of putting together the ceremony for the King of Mississippi and the King of Indiana’s marriage tonight and the priest we had scheduled to perform the ceremony has backed out, and we were informed that you could perhaps… maybe marry them,” she squeaked out the last part.
I watched as Eric stood motionless, staring at the poor woman until she looked as if she might run away crying.
“Eric,” I said placing my hand on his arm. “Are you a priest?” I could not imagine Eric being a priest. It was almost laughable.
“Indeed I am,” Eric replied looking down at me with a strangely excited look I’d never seen on him before. “Church of the Loving Spirit. I got ordained over the Internet. Would like me to perform our marriage,” he asked with a smirk.
“Ah…our marriage?” This time it was me who squeaked out my words. I knew we were married by private ceremony from being bonded but was he talking about pledging? I wasn’t sure we were ready to bind our souls together for eternity. Maybe he was talking about a human marriage. Could Eric perform one of those? Something to think on later.
“Did someone say marriage?” Pam said in a crazy, happy way as she suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the other side of me. Damn vampire hearing. It had been quite a while since I saw that evil smirk on her face and I didn’t like it when it was aimed at me. Surely Pam didn’t approve, did she?
Letting out an annoyed grunt, Eric replied, “Yes, they need someone to officiate the King of Mississippi and the King of Indiana’s wedding.”
“Perfect,” Pam purred. Who knew she loved weddings so much?
The crowd started to part as the both kings made their way through hand in hand. Looks like theirs wasn’t just a political move but also a love match which made me happy. While I was happy for them, I was also nervous because the last time I was in Russell’s presence I left a vampire body in his pool. I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about that. Eric looked down at me for a split second and sent a small amount of curiosity to me but went back to looking at the two kings approaching us.
“Sheriff,” Russell drawled, “I heard you might be of service to my groom and me.”
“I’d be happy to help,” Eric answered.
“Ms. Stackhouse, how lovely to see you again. It’s good to see you feeling better.”
“Thank you, it’s lovely to see you too,” I answered barely holding in my nerves.
“Bart, honey, you’ve got to meet this amazing young lady. She’s was staked by one of those crazed Fellowship followers at a bar in Jackson.”
Eric growled, but Bart looked more than intrigued. “Really? How did you manage that?” he asked as his gaze perused my entire body as if he’d be able to see where I was stacked.
“Mr. Edgington was kind enough to see that I was treated,” I simply replied. Yes, the king had helped me, but it was also Eric’s blood that had healed me. I tried to keep my mind in the present, but as the vampires around me talked, it kept going back to that night with Eric and me in bed. I could feel my skin flush from the heat of what we had and almost done. It made me wonder what would have happened if Bubba hadn’t interrupted. Even back then Eric alluded to having feelings for me. Would I have been open to the idea if I had not been hurt by Bill? Would I have given him a chance back then? Would he have opened himself up to me and be the man he is now? We would never know, but I did know that I was happy with where we were in our relationship.
“It was nothing, darling. After all, you were the one staked by trying to save a vampire in my area, in my employ. However, I do believe you left me a little present in thanks,” Russell said playfully.
I guess he wasn’t mad about me breaking Bill out and leaving Lorena at the bottom of his pool.
Quinn appeared at the entrance and looked over at the crowd we’d drawn. “If Sheriff Northman has agreed to officiate then I believe we only need for him to get ready before we’re ready for your wedding.
I watched as Russell’s eyes twinkled. He was excited, and the smile on Indiana’s face was evidence enough that he too was in love and ready.
Russell looked to Eric, who nodded his agreement before bending down and whispering in my ear to stay with Pam before he vamped out of the room. Russell nodded to Quinn, who promptly replied that they should follow him to the ceremony room.
Russell turned quickly to me before heading off to be married. “I’m happy to see you with the Northman. He’s a good vampire to have at your back.”
I wanted to say something about I wasn’t with Eric because of his standing but because I wanted to be, but he was already walking away to follow Quinn.
“Are you ready,” Pam asked her face back to its blank facade.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. I’ve never been to a vampire wedding before.”
“I know, Sookie,” she replied as if I’d said the most stupid thing in the world.
I followed along with Pam at my side as we made our way to the ceremony room and to our seats. Along the way, I saw a few people who I recognized. Rasul, Carla, and Jake. In front of us stood a platform where we watched Russell and Bart take their places. Over to the side of the stage stood Quinn looking like an idiot in some strange genie outfit. I wanted to laugh, but the room dead quiet, and I didn’t think the vampires in the room would find it appropriate.
Next Eric strode in wearing a black velvet cloak. His face was hidden behind the hood as he placed himself in front of both kings.
“Let the ceremony begin,” Quinn spoke to the crowd.
I watched as Eric’s hands rose to push the hood back. I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face. It was almost as if I’d never witnessed his beauty. He was gorgeous with his dimple in his chin, blue eyes shining and his hair slicked back while his face was serious and solemn. Although his face showed nothing but his commanding tone, I could feel that Eric was secretly happy with how attracted I was to him.
“We are here to witness the joining of these two kings. They have both come to an agreement to join their states for one hundred years. During this time, they may not marry another, form an alliance with any other unless it is mutually agreed upon. Also, they must have one conjugal visit per year. Russell Edgington, King of Mississippi, do you agree upon this oath?”
“I do,” Russell agreed.
“Bartlett Crowe, King of Indiana, do you agree upon this oath?”
“I do,” Bart agreed.
Eric put a goblet under the joined hands of Russell and Bart while also whipping out a knife and cutting their wrists. For some reason, I was not expecting this part. Even though I’d had my share of blood exchanges with Eric, it wasn’t like this. Ours was private. It made me wonder if afterward everyone stayed to watch them consummate their marriage.
Once their cuts had healed first Russell and then Bart took a sip from the goblet. Then they kissed in a tender fashion before it turned more passionate than I thought was appropriate in front of all these people. Luckily, it seemed we weren’t to witness the two having sex here in this room. Instead, the two kings moved on to signing a contract.
Once they were done, Quinn stated, “You may now move to the reception room.”
I wanted to wait for Eric, but Pam ushered me out and into the next room. As we stood to wait for Eric or at least I was, I decided I’d try to see if I could find anything in the minds of those around us. I was beginning to think I’d never find anything and feeling quite useless when I found a human brain I couldn’t read. When I started to try and get a little closer, Pam stopped me with a firm hand to my arm.
“Where to you think you’re going? Eric will be here soon and then we are going to leave,” she said giving me a pointed look.
“I think I found something. I want to get closer,” I whispered to her, hoping no one else heard me.
Looking around the room quickly she finally gave in. “Hurry,” she said before she followed closely behind me.
No matter how close I got, I still couldn’t read the man. Taking a quick look back at Pam and seeing her annoyed face I decided to do something a little more drastic.
“Hello,” I said to the woman standing by the man’s side. She was cautious as no one had approached her and … her husband. “Were you at the wedding? It was my first vampire wedding,” I whispered in a gossipy way.
“Yes,” she replied looking at her husband looking as if she wanted him to save her from talking to me.
“I’m sorry your husband just looks so familiar,” I finally said to add something else to the conversation since it seemed odd I was still standing there.
“Oh, why yes,” she seemed momentarily relieved. “Julian is on TV. He’s a weatherman.”
“Really!,” I probably said a little too excitedly. “Pam, did you hear that? Weren’t you just telling me how interested in the weather Sophie-Ann is?”
“Yes,” Pam answered as she grabbed each of them by their arms to make sure they didn’t get away. “I’d love to introduce you to her. She’s absolutely fascinated by the weather. Did you know that the summit was supposed to be held months ago but was postponed because of the weather.”
Yeah, now her husband, the witch, was paying attention and it looked like he was desperate to get away.
Feeling a large cool hand on my back, I looked up and over my shoulder to find Eric there. Pam gave him a brief nod before she began to guide the couple to wherever Sophie-Ann was. Score one for me! I figured out there was a possible weather witch and found him.
“Are you ready?” Eric asked even as he was leading me out of the room.
“What about Pam?” I asked looking back to see if I could find her.
“She’ll be right behind us. Don’t worry.”
Eric and I were walking along the hallway finally able to leave for the night. It had been a long day, and I was ready for some sleep. Not really paying attention to my surroundings, I noticed a can of soda sitting in a potted plant. Without even thinking about it I picked it up to throw away. That was until I noticed it was a lot heavier than any soda can should ever weight. Stopping in my tracks, I grasped it in both my hands, causing Eric also to stop.
“Sookie? I thought you were ready to go?” he asked before his eyes widened and he stepped toward me. “Give it to me.” He commanded.
“I can’t. This isn’t an ordinary can,” I stated the obvious. Eric wouldn’t be acting the way he was if I just happened to pick up some trash on our way out. It was then I noticed that strange buzzing that had been around Kentucky earlier. I felt it coming closer and wanted to move closer to Eric but not with a bomb in my hands. I wanted to point or something, but I was afraid if I jostled the bomb it might go off. Instead, I tried nodding my head in the direction it was coming from, but Eric only stared at me with worry.
“Look” I called out when a figure came into view. Eric stepped in between us and crouched ready to defend me.
“I am not going to harm the human,” the strange woman said as she stepped around Eric. “What have you got there?” she asked inquisitively with her eyes on the can.
“I believe it’s a bomb,” I whispered as if merely calling it a bomb would make it go off.
“It’s a bomb. I can smell it,” Eric stated coming around to stand at my side.
“I see. My name is Batanya. I noticed that you somehow found Clovache and I earlier when we were with the King of Kentucky. How did you do that? Are you a witch?”
“Oh, no. I’m Sookie Stackhouse, definitely not a witch,” I answered and then looked to Eric. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to tell her what I could do although she seemed to do pretty well on her own.
“It’s up to you,” Eric answered before his eyes went back to the bomb in my hands.
Deciding that I would tell her, I explained how I had registered them earlier in the night.
“The king wanted to have a meeting in the room across the hall, but I will advise against it. Maybe we will meet again. Perhaps tomorrow morning?” Batanya asked.
“Oh, do you work for Kentucky?” I asked.
“Yes, he hired us at a great expense,” she answered.
“May I suggest you find other accommodations for the duration of your stay?”
“Interesting,” she spoke giving me an odd look. “Thank you. I hope to see you again, Miss Stackhouse. Have your vampire explain where I come from,” she said as she started to make her way down the hall.
“Nice meeting you,” I said before she was out of sight. Turning back to Eric, I asked, “Where does she come from?”
“Another dimension. She’s a Britlingen. They are bodyguards brought over by witches, and they are very expensive but enough about them. I need you to give me that bomb, Sookie so that we can leave and go to our hotel. Doesn’t that sound nice?” Eric explained but then turned serious, his eyes never leaving the bomb.
What I wasn’t expecting was for Bill to show up out of one of the doors closest to us and then Quinn to show up with a couple of guys from security. Maybe Batanya had alerted them to our problem. I would have felt better with it just being Eric and I. I didn’t want anything to happen to anyone, and with each step closer they made in our direction the more nervous I became.
“Please don’t get any closer,” I whimpered out. “It’s a bomb.”
“The bomb squad is coming,” one of the security guys said. “It will only be a few minutes.”
“No,” I sighed out.
“Just put the bomb down, Sookie,” Bill said as he took a step closer.
“I can’t. I’m too scared,” I barely got out in a whisper.
“Hand it to me,” Eric said from beside me. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
They were coming at me from all sides, and I didn’t like it. “I don’t want anything to happen to you,” I said pointedly but felt as if tears were about to make their way to my eyes any second now.
“Nothing will happen to either of us. I promise you. Feel me,” Eric implored pointing to my chest.
“Feel me,” Quinn mimicked. “Please, how stupid are you Sookie? Why would you bond yourself with him? Him! Let alone anyone of those damn vampires. He’s the worst.”
Eric growled, and I could feel that he wanted to rip Quinn apart and might have if I didn’t have a bomb in my hands. Instead, he turned to me putting one hand on my elbow, steadying me.
“The bomb robot will be here any moment. Everyone but the woman with the bomb needs to leave. Now,” the security guy insisted, but it had no effect on all the supernaturals that were around me. They acted as if they hadn’t heard him.
“No,” said Eric in a rumble leaving no room for argument. I guess he had heard him but after a few moments the security men left leaving us with Bill and Quinn. I wanted to roll my eyes or throw the bomb at them and have Eric whisk us away. I didn’t, but just barely.
“Sookie,” Eric said bending down until we were eye level. “It’s time to give me the bomb. No more distractions. Do you trust me?”
For a brief moment, something flickered in his eyes and our bond. Did he really think I didn’t trust him? My wanting to keep him safe that was the only reason I still had the stupid bomb.
“I trust you with my life, Eric, this isn’t about that. I want you safe.”
“And I want you safe. I can take the bomb and dispose of it faster than you can blink. I’d never do anything to jeopardize your safety. Let me take it now.”
“Okay,” I said shakily. “But if you die, I’ll find someway to bring you back only so I can kill you.”
“Whatever you say, dear one.”
In one blink my hands were no longer holding the bomb, but a rose. Where had Eric gotten it? I hadn’t noticed him with it before. Unsure what to do, I took a step back away from Quinn and Bill only to feel Eric behind me. Spinning around I looked him over thoroughly with my eyes before I launched myself at him.
Catching me in his arms, Eric nuzzled his nose into the side of my neck as he whispered that he and everything was going to be okay.
“You’re going to be okay, and I’m unharmed,” he murmured one last time before I heard the elevator doors closed.
I wanted to ask why we were in the elevator but couldn’t manage to speak. My adrenaline had plummeted the moment I saw Eric back without the bomb and that he was in one piece. We were only in the elevator for a short period of time before the doors opened and Eric walked out not saying a word. I was still curious but not enough to detach myself. Instead, I clutched myself tighter to Eric as he walked a short distance before I felt the night breeze hit my back. Eric took a quick right and then took flight. My stomach had dropped for only a second before I felt Eric wrap me tighter in his arms. This was the first time he had flown with me, and I wanted to enjoy it, but I couldn’t manage to lift my head out of the crook of his neck.
“You’re safe,” Eric spoke only moments before touching down at our new hotel.
“I know. I’m always safe with you. I’m sorry, Eric. I was so scared…”
“So was I,” he interrupted and continued walking into the hotel and took the stairs instead of the elevator. Once he opened the door to our room, he spoke again, “No more picking up trash. I don’t know if my undead heart can take it.”
He was trying to joke, but I knew he was serious. I’d never look at a Dr. Pepper can the same way again, and I knew for sure I’d never drink one.
“I promise,” I replied, cradling his cheek in my hand. Closing his eyes, Eric leaned into my hand before placing a kiss on my palm and then wrapping an arm around me as he laid me down on the bed. Pulling me close, Eric tucked me under his chin while running a hand up and down my back. Every once in a while, I could feel Eric inhale as if he was smelling the top of my head. I didn’t care, and I thought it was actually kind of sweet. I had a feeling that tonight had shaken him up and I wanted to make him forget earlier and live in the here and now with me.
Rising up, I planted an elbow in the mattress as I placed soft kisses all over Eric’s face. Once I made it to his full lips, I was graced with a smile that was almost as bright as the sun itself. Leaning down I ran my tongue along his lower lip until he opened for me allowing me to caress my tongue against his first slowly as if we had all the time in the world and not the few short hours until dawn.
Eric let me set the pace as I licked, kissed and nibbled his sensual lips. It didn’t take long before my pace quickened and I deepened our kisses. Breaking apart, I sat up and slowly started unbuttoning his shirt one button at a time placing a kiss on his chest after each one was undone. The rumble from Eric’s chest let me know he approved and made me want him all the more and to quicken my pace.
“Sookie,” Eric groaned out as I reached for his belt. “Wait.” Pulling me up his body, I didn’t know what to think. Never had Eric stopped sex nor would I have ever guessed that he would. Feeling my confusion, Eric kissed me hungrily for only a moment and then pulled back giving me a reassuring smile.
“Before… tonight… I love you, Sookie. I wanted you to know that before another second passed by. I don’t know what I’d do without you in my life, and it’s not because we are bonded but because of my feelings for you. My love for you. If you had…”
“I love you too, Eric,” I interrupted. “I understand because I feel the same way about you.”
“As I’ve said before I’m new to all of this. My feelings and being in a relationship. I felt you should know,” he tried to explain.
“You are doing a fantastic job. I have to admit I struggle too. I don’t know what I’m doing either.” Eric gave me an inquisitive look. “I’m a little unsteady. You’re a vampire, which of course you’re aware of,” I couldn’t help but laugh at the look on Eric’s face. He probably thought I was losing my marbles. “You’re also a Viking. What I’m trying to say is I’m not sure how much I should express my feelings for you. I understand about not doing so when we are around others, but when we’re alone… I feel like I’m messing this all up and not explaining myself very well.”
Eric was angry and confused with my horrible way of trying to explain myself, and I couldn’t let him feel like he was to blame. I should have talked to him about it before, but we’d never really had the chance.
“You’ve given me no cause to feel this way. You’ve opened up to me about your feelings and what you want more than I ever thought was possible. My problem is your not the mushy, gushy romantic type and I don’t want my affection to become… I don’t know the right word for it. Annoying or too much. I want you to know I mean it and that what I feel for you is special. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, and each night I’m with you I love you more and more. You’re confidence in me, and my ability since we met has changed the way I feel about myself. If you hadn’t come into my life, I don’t think I would have ever thought about going to school online to better myself and my life. You’ve done that and so much more. Then tonight I tell you I have a bad feeling about the hotel and your belief in me is astounding. No questions asked you trusted my judgment and had us move here. You’ve done all of that and more. I’m afraid I’m not doing this right.
“I know plenty of women have thrown the words of love to you, so I don’t want my words to seem cheap. Does any of that make sense?” God, I hoped it didn’t sound like I was rambling. I only wanted to explain myself and why I was so unsure.
Looking up at me with a smile on his face, Eric cupped my cheeks before placing the most tender kiss on my lips. He used all his thousand years of kissing experience in that one kiss, and I knew when it was over I had a dazed and glowing look on my face.
“You’re words of affection will never sound cheap to my ears, my dear Sookie. Never worry about expressing how you feel to me no matter if it’s good or bad. Yes, many women and men have said they loved me, but from them, they were only words to get in my favor. I knew what they were doing and never cared. Each time you tell me that you love me, I treasure it beyond measure and wonder how you can love me. I understand why you loved the other Eric, but not me. I’m…”
“No, you’re just as easy to love if not more so because you are real,” I interrupted. Eric had lived too long not seeing any good in himself. Why couldn’t he see what I saw?
“He was just as real,” he stated not looking me in the eye.
“Of course, he was real because he’s you. That other Eric hadn’t lived for over a thousand years. He was sweet and loving and had no supernatural politics following him around, but he was lost. Your experiences make you who you are. You are fiercely intelligent, passionate, loyal to those who have earned it, and after all these years you still have a sense of humor, something I haven’t found in many vampires. And underneath it all you are still loving and having your love now means more to me than when I was the only person you knew. If I had to choose between him and you, you’d win every single time,” I vowed, wanting to make sure Eric knew he was the one for me. “You are the one that I bonded to, the one I choose to spend the rest of my life with. YOU. ARE. MY. FOREVER.”
Emotions too many to name swam in Eric’s eyes and through our bond before he crushed his lips to mine. I knew my lips would be bruised tomorrow morning, but it was worth it to feel Eric like this. Overcome by emotion and unable to stop himself as he ripped our clothes off without breaking away. Seconds before plunging deep inside of me, Eric broke away from my lips to vow reverently. “Forever.”