“Sthookie?” I asked, but didn’t know where to go from there. Something felt wrong. More than the sound of her name coming out of my mouth.
I sucked in a breath of air, but it too felt weird.
I couldn’t place it. Nor could I figure out just how I ended up on the floor, with Sookie’s stricken face covered in more than just tears above my own. She had blood all over her face and the front of her body, but since she didn’t appear injured my primary concern for now was how did my teeth become so sharp?
And why was the pulsing in Sookie’s neck making my mouth water?
Unaware I was drawn to her in ways I’d never thought possible, she moved her face even closer to mine. Smiling softly, with newly formed tears falling down her face, she cupped my cheek and said, “Close enough. Eric, how do you feel?”
But I didn’t answer. I didn’t say anything because I would swear I could hear her heartbeat like I had a stethoscope pressed against her chest. And it was more than just the sound of it that had me fighting against an overwhelming urge to sink my teeth into her neck, but when she softly ran her finger over the protrusions I could feel coming out of my gums, I was suddenly fighting an entirely different kind of urge.
But with my focus so narrowed down onto Sookie, when I heard an unexpected noise fill the air, my instincts took over and before I knew it I was on my feet with Sookie shoved behind me, snarling out a noise of my own at the source.
I recognized him a split second later and Flood – while armed – kept his gun lowered in one hand and his other up in the air, signaling he wasn’t a threat, as he said, “Uhh…good to see you up?”
Pulling in another – what felt like – unneeded breath of air through my nose, I was assaulted by a barrage of scents. Sookie’s, I’d been familiar with for a while and impossibly, I could smell her on me, but most of the others I was able to track back to their source.
Besides hers and the pungent aroma of dog on my skin, I could smell another’s. And as my eyes trailed the scent to the man it belonged to, the name tape on his uniform said he was Purifoy.
Flood, I recognized by sight, but now also scent and, according to his uniform, the only other in the room was called Herveaux.
There were other scents, blood being the most prevalent. Mine I assumed considering I was still smeared with it and as I checked myself for injuries I was surprised to find none, so I did an internal check.
Flexing my muscles, I felt a surge of power flowing through me unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Stronger. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear I was physically bigger as well. There were minute differences in my mass I could feel when I moved, but it was probably just in my head.
Just like how the scent of blood smelled appetizing.
Struggling to keep my need to bite in check, I slackened my jaw enough to ask, “What happened?”
The last thing I could remember was working in the lab, with Godric running a simulation based on the serum I’d cooked up. But everything after that was hazy.
“I got here and found you on the floor,” Sookie replied from behind me and I shuddered feeling the warmth of her hand touch my back. Turning to face her, she managed to look both devastated and relieved when she said, “You were attacked. By werewolves, we think. You…you were going to die, so Godric had me…I injected whatever it was in that steel cylinder right into your heart.”
While my mind ran through a million different things at once, she pulled me back into the here and now by pulling me into her arms. I locked down every muscle in my body as she softly pressed her head to my chest and waited a few seconds before saying, “But…your heart. Eric, it’s still not beating.”
Had I somehow managed to lock that one down too?
I’d call it impossible, but I’d witnessed a man turn into a wolf, so…
Releasing some of the tension I’d imposed on myself, I tried to relax, but it was impossible with my new want of Sookie.
Feeling the blood pulsing through her body as it was pressed against my own was making me hard.
“Sookie,” I mumbled, both out of trying to keep myself from biting her and trying to talk around my new sharpened teeth. “You have to let go. I can’t…I don’t want…you just have to let go of me.”
She looked heartbroken as she released me from her grasp and took a step back. And while I wanted to soothe her hurt, I didn’t want to do it by telling her I was trying to not bite her.
I already felt like a monster.
I didn’t want her to see me as one too.
But because she was Sookie and always able to stay on point – hopefully not on the ones at the ends of my new teeth – she asked, “How do you feel?”
It wasn’t a lie, in more ways than one.
“I’ll go get you something to eat,” she said and took off up the stairs before I could stop her.
Well, I was sure I could stop her, but how would I tell her a sandwich just wasn’t going to do?
“Eric,” Flood began and took a small step forward. “We all watched you die. Your heart flat lined. Your breathing stopped. I don’t know if the Stephen Hawking you’ve got hidden in your walls needs new batteries, but according to him, your heart still isn’t beating.” Locking his gaze onto my own, he asked, “What was in that stuff Miss Stackhouse said she pumped into your chest?
“My version of the wolf serum, only without the furry side effects,” I replied automatically. But feeling my hunger growing to almost painful levels, I did the only thing I could think of.
I raided the stash of donor blood I kept on hand in the lab.
Ignoring everyone else in the room, I drained three bags before I felt sated. Sane. And while it tasted a bit off being cold, it filled me up like I’d just had a full meal.
I didn’t think how it would look to anyone else in the room until I heard the heartbeat I’d subconsciously been tracking return to the open doorway.
Turning to face her, with the evidence I was some kind of monster still in my hand, her jaw dropped open just as the plate slipped from her grasp and suddenly I was standing beside her.
Plate in hand.
“HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” she yelled and jumped.
Because I was a monster. The evidence was still in my other hand.
“How the fuck?” the one named Herveaux asked, drawing my eyes to him.
Big. Brawny. Dark hair and green eyes. His scent and appearance were already catalogued in my head. But I didn’t think his question was one he was waiting on an answer to, so I said nothing.
“No, really?” he asked, unafraid to meet my stare. “How the fuck did you move so fast?”
There was no question it was the serum, but I couldn’t explain why I now had…fangs? And why I didn’t seem to have a heartbeat and breathing air felt funny. But I hated the teeth and wished they would go away. Everything else I could hide, but those stuck out like sore thumbs. I’d file them down if I had to, but just as I was thinking about it, it happened.
They clicked back up into my gums.
Darting over to an unbroken piece of glass, I stared at my reflection with my tongue running over my once again blunt teeth and said, “So weird.”
But as I was doing so, Sookie spoke up saying, “Eric?”
And down they came again.
“Dammit!” I snarled and could see her startle in my makeshift mirror, but when I turned around I could tell I’d really frightened her.
I was such an asshole.
A monstrous asshole.
Closing my eyes, I concentrated on willing the fangs away and didn’t open them again until I felt the soft click in my gums. Taking another shallow breath of air, I looked at her and softly said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Her shoulders dropped down from where they’d still been perched up by her ears and she took several slow steps toward me, like she was approaching a frightened animal, until she was directly in front of me.
And then she slapped me across my face.
My hidden fangs were hidden no more, but if I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t angry.
I was turned on.
Maybe I was kinkier than I suspected.
“You did scare me, asshole!” she berated, putting her face in mine as much as she could when barefoot. “When you died! Don’t do it again.”
“But…my teeth,” I said incredulously. “And apparently I don’t have a heartbeat. Breathing feels weird and I just drank three liters of blood like it was Sam Adams Summer Ale! I can even smell the joint somebody just lit up down on the beach.”
“My teeth,” she mocked and threw her hands on her hips adding, “My poor wittle heart don’t pitter patter no more. I like my Slurpees blood red now and a stoner on the beach is givin’ me the munchies.” Poking her finger into my chest, she gritted out, “You know what you giant ass? I don’t give a shit! I give a shit that by some miracle you’re still here and your Slurpee gave you back some color. So if it’ll make you feel any better, I’ll climb down the cliff myself and go raid their stash on the beach if it’ll calm your ass down!”
Her chest was heaving from her angry rant, with her breaths fanning across my face, while we stared each other down. Her pissed. Me shocked.
“Balls on that one,” Purifoy mumbled out and breaking the silence, but my eyes were only on Sookie.
And then the rest of me joined them.
The plate I’d still been holding crashed down onto the floor as I wrapped her in my arms, with my lips slanting over hers and she squeaked back into my mouth.
I decided it must have been the latter because as soon as I loosened my hold on her, she took a big pull of air into her lungs and then pulled herself onto me. Her tongue delicately traced over one of my extended teeth and made shivers run down my spine, but when I accidentally cut my own tongue something happened.
It was immediate.
It was something indescribable, but if I had to put it into words, I would say it felt like I could feel Sookie. More than her body in my arms, I felt a sudden sense of relief. Adoration.
Even knowing I felt those things for her, I could somehow tell they weren’t my feelings. She was elated. So much so that I felt my lips trying to form a smile from feeling her joy, but feeling her running her tongue across the sharpened tip of my fang made me feel something else.
And the force of it scared me.
So I forced myself to pull away. I didn’t know what I would do if I tasted fresh blood and I was afraid to find out.
We went back to staring at each other. Her chest was still heaving, but I knew not from anger now and the only thing to break the tension was Herveaux coughing out, “Awkward.”
And fuck me if her blush hadn’t ever made her look so irresistible.
But I resisted. Somehow.
However I couldn’t resist thinking she wasn’t safe around me.
Releasing her from my hold, I put some distance between us to try and clear my head, and unnecessarily cleared my throat before turning to face our audience, saying, “Not that I don’t appreciate the company,” a massive understatement since they were likely the only thing that would keep me from experimenting with my new self-imposed boundaries where Sookie was concerned, “But what are you three doing here?”
My lab was trashed from the wolves’ attack, but now that I wasn’t distracted by Sookie’s lips, I was anxious to right it again. I was anxious to run tests on myself to see what in the fuck the serum had done to me because while she acted indifferent to my new state, I didn’t think it would take long for her to realize I was some sort of monster and run for the hills. I needed to figure out what changes occurred. What changes could possibly be reversed.
I needed to figure out what in the fuck I was now.
A vampire? A zombie?
My enquiring mind wanted to know.
The only thing making me think it was more the former than the latter was my craving for blood. Hopefully it was just a weird side effect. A combination of my massive blood loss and my new state of being that made me try and get it into my body in the most expedient manner I could think of.
Besides, while I’d always had a thirst for knowledge, the thought of dining on anyone’s brain didn’t seem appealing whatsoever.
Flood took a step forward – the undoubted leader of the group – and explained, “There’s a mole somewhere in our ranks. When we went to search the area Furnan was last known to be, our group was ambushed by both armed men and wolves. They knew we were coming and the only way for them to know was if someone on our side told them. We put up a good enough fight and the silver rounds we had made special for this mission helped, but we didn’t have many because of the lack of time and funds. And they move quick. Quicker than any dog I’ve ever seen. More like a cheetah with the strength of a gorilla. We managed to kill one of the wolves with a silver round and then nearly got picked off when we were shocked stupid watching him turn back into a man. We only made it out of there alive because their group was small. Three men. Three wolves. We were still forced to retreat, but knowing they have inside information made me come here in case they tried to get to you.”
“Where are the rest of your men?” I hesitantly asked.
But his expression said it all when he answered, “We’re all that’s left out of a dozen.”
My fangs had retreated after I’d calmed down from kissing Sookie, but hearing nine of Flood’s men died in trying to stop the werewolf threat threatened to make them descend again. I managed to stay them through sheer willpower and asked, “So what’s our next move?”
Flood’s expression was weary but determined as he said, “We’re officially off the grid right now and it’s probably best if we stay that way. We don’t know who we can trust, so we trust no one who’s not in this room. We’ll have to set up camp somewhere and come up with a plan, but we managed to get an ID off of the body of one of their men and a few license plates we came across on our way into their camp. I’m hoping they’ll give us a lead and we can go from there.”
“What about your families?” I asked. I didn’t know if the other two had them, but Flood had mentioned a daughter during our first meeting and I doubted the enemy would have enough honor to leave them alone.
“When you’re in our line of work, you learn to plan for everything you can ahead of time,” he smiled. “We already put in the call on our way here, so they’re on their way to where no one will find them. They’ll come back once the threat has been eliminated.”
Hearing his choice of words – eliminated – made me realize shit just got real.
My only family was Sookie, but I was more afraid she’d be in danger with me than without me. No one besides Victor knew we’d become a couple and it had only happened days earlier. I’d never kept any kind of schedule and we hadn’t gone out anywhere together on a date. I hadn’t even been in the office for weeks, so I thought it would be safe enough to assume no one would come after her.
In their eyes, she was just my Executive Assistant.
Not even Sookie knew she was my everything.
But trying to figure out the logistics on the fly made me turn to Flood and say, “You three can stay here. There’s plenty of room and enough food that we wouldn’t need to leave for supplies for a while. The wolves think I’m dead, so there’s no reason for them to return.”
Turning to face Sookie, I tamped down on my urge to snatch her close and keep her there, saying, “And you should leave.”
“What?” she asked, as my chest flooded with her surprise and sadness. “Why?”
But feeling her emotions so strongly only reminded me I was a maybe monster and I didn’t want her anywhere near me until I knew what that meant. Until I knew I could control myself around her.
Because if I accidentally hurt her, it would kill me.
Instead of admitting that, I bluntly explained my reasoning by saying, “Leave and don’t come back.” I could call her when I knew it would be safe for her to be around me again, so I added, “You’re just my employee. No one will come looking for you. You could take a vacation or say I was leaving on one, so no one will wonder why my death hasn’t been reported.”
A stabbing pain lit up my body. Hers, I knew. But her expression gave nothing away as to why when she stared back at me.
Until her next words gave everything away.
“Just your employee.”
Those three words were now killing us both. I hadn’t realized how it would sound to her ears, but I knew if I explained now – if I told her it was because I fucking loved her and needed her to remain safe, even from me – she would never leave.
Her stubbornness was a dominant trait.
Something I’d known for three years now, but through her hurt she felt me out by twisting the knife some more and adding in a disbelieving tone, “Leave and don’t come back.”
So I twisted it all the way by nodding.
She needed to leave for her own safety.
She took my silent agreement at face value and walked out of the room without another word.
Out of the house.
Those two things I could tell with my newly heightened hearing, but what I couldn’t tell – didn’t know – was if it was for good.
But it was for her own good for now, no matter how big of a mistake it felt like letting her go.