She was so infuriatingly stubborn. It nearly made me wish I could magic away her own memories so she would stop fighting her feelings at every turn.
But even if I could, I knew I would not.
I didn’t remember a single moment of our time together prior to the night before, but her personality was part and parcel of who she was. Of the woman I knew I had fallen in love with. Even if she wasn’t ready to hear it. And it was what made me finally realize why she was so determined to return me to my previous state. While she would only admit to liking me, I knew her feelings ran much deeper than that. Feelings that would’ve began growing prior to the previous twenty-four hours. If our situations had been reversed, I knew I would move heaven and earth to see her well again. The fact she seemed willing to do the same gave evidence our feelings were mutual.
Even if she continued to deny it.
But I couldn’t ignore the fact our attempt to find answers and cures could be a fruitless one. Therefore I couldn’t allow her to be ignorant of that same fact. I might very well never get my memories back and if that was the case, I could not stomach the thought she would never truly become my lover.
Not when she’d given me every indication – both verbal and non – that she wanted me just as much as I wanted her.
Well perhaps not as much as I wanted her. The sickening in the pit of her stomach over the thought of becoming my bride left an equally sickening feeling in the pit of mine. I wanted to know the cause and yet I was too afraid to ask.
Was it because she felt I could not provide for her in my current state?
Was it because of every wrong doing she’d been forced to suffer by my idiotic actions prior to losing my memories?
Or was it because she truly didn’t feel the same way I felt about her?
Needing to know and still unable to ask, I gently cupped her face and placed my lips back onto hers. Scrutinizing every emotion coursing through her while I sought out the answers from her tongue which had yet to form the words. She didn’t question my motives. Nor did she attempt to push me away, so I gathered her in my arms and let my own feelings pour into her through our kiss. My fear of losing her, be it through my memories returning or her own that continued to keep her at arm’s length.
“I want to believe you,” she whispered when she eventually pulled away to end our kiss. “And I’ll even admit that from the moment we met, we had a connection. The chemistry between us has always been there. But you have to realize that while your memories are gone, I still have mine. I remember the look on your face when you realized I had betrayed you. I remember the indifference in your expression on the docks when I could barely keep my feet under me from the pain over ruining whatever it was we had together. Pain I now know you would’ve felt coming from me. And I remember each and every solitary minute after you left me there without a word.” She paused for a moment and lifted her tear stained eyes to look back into mine as she said, “You only came back to me when you couldn’t remember me. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe it was just the connection in our blood. Whatever it was and whatever it is you feel for me at your core might be your truth. But my truth is that you didn’t act on those feelings until you couldn’t remember why it was you didn’t want to before then.”
“Then perhaps I am as stubborn as you,” I offered regretfully. I couldn’t question her version of the events that had led us to go our separate ways and I wanted to kick my own ass for having acted that way.
At least I now knew my own name to take down.
But only because she had told it to me.
Not wanting to leave her alone yet again, even in her feelings, I added, “Denying my feelings for you as you now deny your feelings for me. We are one and the same.”
“You always liked for us to be matchy-matchy,” she smiled after a moment. Searching both my eyes and her own thoughts, she admitted, “I do care about you, Eric. More than I probably should and more than I’ve ever cared about anyone who I don’t share blood with. But I went from spending four days in the hospital feeling worse over, for lack of a better term – our breakup – than my physical injuries, to…this. As easily as you can get my libido to go from zero to sixty, my head is still stalled at the starting line.”
She’d joked about car races and checkered flags I apparently would never win while I’d attempted to drive us to the store, so I understood her turn of phrase and smiled back with, “I’m sure I can get your engine running again. I’ll even slow down so your head can catch up.”
She laughed softly and said, “I’m sure you can get my engine to overheat. You certainly haven’t forgotten how, but slow is good. Slow is what I need.”
Wanting clarification and hoping I wasn’t hearing only what I wanted to hear, I asked, “But you are willing to, as you say – for lack of a better term – start over?”
She shrugged with a small smile still on her lips as she replied, “You’re right. No matter what we do you might never get your memories back. I’ve told you everything that happened between us and in spite of it all you still want to be with me. I guess I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, but I wasn’t kidding when I said my willpower is shit around you. I know I won’t be able to hold out forever, but the thought of you getting your memories back and feeling like I took advantage of you now still scares me. Maybe a part of me is hoping that if I do end up giving in and you get your memories back, you’ll remember all of the times I put you off and why. But I need for us to at least try to find a way to get your memories back first. I would regret it otherwise.” Putting her hand on my chest, she stared deeply into my eyes and admitted, “But the selfish part of me knows if this all ends again when you finally do remember, I’ll regret that too. Never knowing what it’s like to be with you in that way. I wasn’t the one who wanted it to end the first go around.”
Sensing her growing hesitation, I interjected, “Nor am I. Not as I am now, at least.”
Looking back at me she said, “I’m not placing blame on anyone other than myself for that. But all I can offer you Eric is that I’m willing to build on something between us now – as you are now. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do everything in my power to get your memories back, but at the same time I can’t hold you accountable for any decisions you made beforehand if you end up never remembering. I just need for us to go slow.”
Feeling more relieved than I knew was possible, I smiled in return and responded, “Then slow is what you shall have.”
Her emotions were still running high and I knew she was not ready to accept any more truths tonight. Wanting to return her to a more relaxed and playful state, I asked, “So if I strip off all of my clothes, you will do the same?” I had no real hope she would acquiesce, but that didn’t stop me from adding, “We can be matchy-matchy as you said.”
My attempt at humor seemed to be working when she playfully scoffed at me and asked, “What happened to slow?”
Seeing no reason to not try and build my case further, I explained, “I am a vampire, lover. We move much more quickly than humans.” Proving my point, I scooped her up into my arms and had her back to sitting in my lap on the couch a second later. While she was still trying to figure out we had moved, I added, “We won’t be returning to New Orleans until tomorrow night and there are still many hours left of this one. We have to fill up the rest of our time doing something.”
Why not each other?
Slowly, of course.
“Your one track mind seems to be doing circles in the gutter,” she laughed, when I felt a sudden jolt go through her blood as she turned to me and asked, “But…am I really a human? If Claudine is real. If it’s true that she’s my kin and fairy godmother to boot, then what does that make me?”
“Mine,” I answered without any hesitation. Her lineage made no difference to me, but seeing her roll her eyes at yet another truthful statement she didn’t want to accept, I added, “Any relation you may have to her isn’t direct. It would explain why your scent is mouthwatering, but it’s diluted enough that you are at least a few generations removed. I would have more difficulty controlling myself around you if you weren’t.”
While she thought over my words, I played with her hair and waited for her to come to some sort of conclusion. I was glad she wasn’t frightened by the implication I might drain her otherwise.
Also a truthful statement she might not be ready to accept.
Monitoring her emotions seemed to be second nature to me. Made even easier when she was so close, so I felt it when she had reached the end of her mental journey and watched as she shook her head and snickered, “Well you smell pretty good, so maybe you’re part fairy too? Maybe you even have your own fairy godmother and she can wave her magic wand and poof your memories back.”
She seemed to come to terms quickly with the idea she wasn’t quite as human as she’d once believed, but I attributed it to her interactions with her childhood protector. That job was mine now, but I played along with her and offered, “Perhaps you are my fairy godmother.”
“Well then you got ripped off Cinderfella,” she laughed. Moving her ass over my lap in a way that threatened to make my fangs descend, she added, “Besides, you’re the only one here with a magic wand.”
“I thought I’d made it clear that I’m more than willing to share it with you,” I softly growled, while grabbing onto her hips and helping her help me ruin my third pair of pants for the night. After seeing my closet I knew she would run out of clothes long before I would.
And then we could share the checkered flag because we both would win.
“Speaking of clarity,” she breathed out. “My head gets cloudy when yours is poking me like that.”
Even as she pushed at my shoulders to put distance between us, her hips ground down over my own and I lost the ability to keep my fangs in check. They snapped down as I moved at a vampire’s pace once again so that her body was underneath mine and I thrust against her, replying, “If I poke you without our clothes on, we’ll both end up much more clearheaded when we’re through.”
It was a lie, of course. My thoughts were becoming more disjointed with every passing moment. Feeling the heat of her body against my own. Watching the blood pulsing through her veins. Sensing her own rapidly building desires and scenting her arousal in the air did nothing to keep me lucid. I’d agreed to take things slow, but in this moment the only promise I could truthfully make was to slowly take her clothes off. Slowly drive us both insane with want before I slowly entered her. And then I would take my time slowly bringing us both to a very climactic end.
She had initiated our kiss by pulling my head down to hers, giving me but a taste before pushing me away again, and panting out, “You might have my engine revving, but my head still needs to warm up or else it’s going to seize. This isn’t helping.”
“Nor are your jeans,” I sulked, already knowing our playtime was coming to an end before it could even begin.
She chuckled and grabbed my face in her hands, saying, “Who knew vampires pouted? You all are supposed to be vicious and deadly. But maybe that’s just as much as hooey as you not having a reflection. The fangs and blood sucking give you folklore street cred to hide the fact you’re all a bunch of whiners when you get blue balls.”
Her mood had turned playful and was contagious, so I leaned down and dragged my fangs along her neck, saying, “Perhaps that is why my skin is cold. My whole body might turn blue if you continue teasing me.”
It was a very real possibility.
Her body shuddered under me. Being able to feel her emotions made it even more difficult to control myself, but she managed to snort and ask, “Is that what Smurfs are? Tiny little vampires with a raging case of blue balls? Shrunken down when they’re too wound up? It’s plausible considering Smurfette was the only girl.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, nor did I care when her body continued to tease my own. All I cared about was finding a way to convince her that her noble thoughts on remaining chaste were more than enough and she didn’t need to actually follow through. In keeping with that theme, I said, “You claimed you are willing to build on our relationship. What better way than to start with building a pile of our shed clothes?”
She made a ‘vroom vroom’ sound and laughed, “Boy, you sure are tearing up that gutter. If we’re starting over then this is only our first date. Shakira lied. Just like my hips. No matter what they’re telling you, I’m not that easy.”
“Easy?” I playfully scoffed. Thrusting my hips against hers one last time, I offered, “Hard is more like it.”
Her eyes rolled back into the back of her head as she whimpered, “And if you keep it up, I’ll give up and ask for more like it.”
“I see no flaw in that plan.”
None at all.
“I’m a telepath. Not a psychic, but I can still see regret in my immediate future if I do.”
Feeling her emotions was just as much of a blessing as it was curse because I knew she meant what she said. It was the only reason I was able to pull away from her willingly and resume a much more harmless position seated next to her. When she righted herself as well and we were both calmed, she turned to me with another small smile and said, “Thank you. You’re not the only one having a hard time with this, but I appreciate you giving me the time I need.”
“You agreed to build on a relationship with me,” I shrugged. “It is more than I deserve after the way I treated you in the past. I am willing to wait because you are worth waiting for.” Adding a leer to my expression, I added, “But that doesn’t mean I won’t take every opportunity to try and convince you we’ve waited long enough.”
“You’re more convincing than Jim Jones with a fresh pitcher of Kool-Aid,” she laughed. At my confused expression, she only giggled more before she sobered slightly and said, “Never mind.”
Feeling her amusement left me feeling torn once more over both wanting my memories to return, so I would understand her joke and being fearful of what else they might contain. But I let it go just as quickly wanting to enjoy whatever time I had with her now and looked around, asking, “So if we’re not going to test just how flexible you are, how do you propose we spend the rest of the night?”
I was curious to know more about her life, but I sensed she needed to do something that didn’t require any thinking. I couldn’t tell her anything about my own life and she seemed to agree on taking it easy when she smirked and said, “This is why God gave us TV.”
She reached over grabbed an oblong shaped handheld device from the small table next to the couch and I watched as she aimed it at the large screen in front of us. Pushing a button made a picture appear on it.
“Eric!” she yelled suddenly in a chastising voice while looking at the picture. “What. Is. That?”
I was sure that was what she called it. Was my memory loss contagious?
“That…that…” she sputtered, pointing the picture maker back and forth from me to the image. “That is my room back at the casino!” she finally shrieked.
She seemed angered by that fact, but I didn’t know why and was left even more confused when she added, “I can’t believe you peeping Tom’d me you perv!”
“Lover?” I asked.
It was my only recourse considering I had no clue as to what she was angry about or what a peeping Tom was.
‘Perv’, my memories had retained.
“Eric Northman!” she barked. “I don’t care if you can remember or not. You’d better have a very good explanation why you have hidden cameras in my suite at your casino or else I’m gonna kick your ass!”
My mouth spewed out the first thing to enter my mind when I offered, “To protect you?” It was my only thought considering how I felt about her.
“From what?” she scoffed before gasping out loud. I feared her brain had in fact seized like she claimed it would when I felt nothing from her at all, so we were both startled when her emotions unlocked a moment later. Her entire body flooded with relief, leaving me even more confused and my confusion only grew when she cackled, “You were spying on me!”
“And this makes you feel comforted?” I asked. The word ‘spying’ came across as a disingenuous tactic that made me even more hesitant about regaining my memories.
“Well in my mind it evens the playing field a little,” she shrugged. “I may have been sent to spy on you, but you were spying on me right back.”
Instead of feeling amused like she did, I felt…dirty. “So in addition to hurting you, I am a hypocrite as well.” She may not have known I was spying on her at the time, but I did and yet I still let her believe she was the only traitor.
“Ugh,” she sighed and leaned over hugging my arm. “Knock it off. You were being careful. You had no reason to trust me at first, just like I had no reason to trust you. I’m sure you only did it because keeping what you are a secret is a big deal.” When I only continued to sulk silently at her side, she shrugged again and added, “And I doubt seeing me naked was a chore for you.”
“Naked?” I asked, aloud this time.
“Why would I think twice about stripping my clothes off in my own room?” she asked as though it were no big deal.
She’d only just snarled at me about kicking my ass, so I knew it was a big deal and yet she was placating me instead.
I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Why do you automatically react in a way so that I will feel better when you were the one who was wronged?”
It made me question her own feelings of self-worth which worried me. At the same time her selflessness was only more proof she was too good for me, but I already knew I would never willingly give her up.
Even if I couldn’t remember the first time when I had done just that.
“Wellll…” she drawled out. “You vampires might live forever, but us little old part-fairy humans don’t. My gift has given me more insight than I care to remember in my short lifetime, but at least I learned pretty quickly not to sweat the small stuff and that it could always be worse. My time on earth is limited and I don’t want to spend it with my panties twisted when there are much more enjoyable things to do in life.”
I didn’t want to think about her time being limited, but I knew our time tonight was and decided to adopt her way of thinking for now. And since she’d brought it up, I asked, “So, now that you are no longer in that room for me to spy on why don’t you strip yourself naked right now, so I can check to make sure your panties aren’t twisted. It would certainly be an enjoyable thing for me to do in life.”
“They say if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life,” she laughed. “And you’ll be the first one I call when I’m interviewing for my own personal panty checker.”
I’d better be the only one she called for that job.
She turned back to face the screen and began pressing buttons, changing the picture as she did so, saying, “This must be tied into your surveillance system back in the casino.” She smacked my leg without looking at me and added, “And my room had better be on some secret camera feed because if all of those security guards were watching me change my clothes, I really am going to kick your ass.”
My fists automatically clenched at the thought of any other man seeing her naked, so I doubted I would’ve allowed it no matter what state of mind I was in. However that thought made me wonder how many others had seen her naked.
But I knew if I asked, her answer might mean my fists could very well remain clenched for all of eternity.
Instead I watched as she flipped from view to view, describing to me what it was we were seeing. I even had cameras in my own private rooms and office, but seeing them made her say, “I’m guessing you didn’t review them on a regular basis. If you had, you would’ve seen me going through your things.”
Guilt spiked within her, so I reciprocated her earlier gesture of comfort and said matter-of-factly, “I was probably too busy watching you undress.”
It worked because she snickered again and resumed pressing buttons when what appeared to be a map of some sort came onto the screen. I recognized the outline of the state of Louisiana from a stack of roadmaps at the small store we’d gone into earlier.
“Why would you have an interactive map of Louisiana?” she asked.
I assumed her question was a rhetorical one, so I remained silent. Inside the boundary lines there were tiny blips on the screen, with small clusters near the cities and the largest of them in and around New Orleans, but the northern half of the state was completely bare. Also missing from the northern half were the numerous X’s that were scattered over the southern half as well.
I could feel her concentration when she suddenly stood up and walked over to the screen, slowly reaching towards it and touching one of the blips. Her touch caused the view to change, zooming in on the location, with a picture of a woman popping up alongside indicating her name was Thalia. It gave her age as being over a thousand years old. Described her as a strong warrior who had little tolerance for asinine humans, but was loyal. And it gave us her location down to the street address of where she was currently along with the path of her movements going backwards from there.
I worried for a moment my lover would become upset believing this Thalia to be another woman in my life, but I knew that could not be the case because I felt absolutely nothing seeing her. And instead of feeling jealous or angry, she only felt excited as she began touching other blips on the screen. Name after name and picture after picture came onto the screen with both of us reading what was there before she moved onto the next. When she’d exhausted through them all, twenty-six in total, she turned to me and said, “I’m guessing from their ages they’re all vampires. But why would you be tracking them?”
“Enemies?” I offered, unsure.
She was already shaking her head as she said, “I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t know if you all are best friends or not, but some of them are described as loyal. It’s almost like a resume, but I can’t figure out why you would be keeping track of them all.”
She turned back to the screen and touched on one of the X’s, bringing up a picture of three others. Two men and a woman. Malcolm, Liam, and Diane according to their files, but along with their ages and strengths, it gave the date of their deaths followed by yet another name.
“They died two weeks before I started working for you,” she offered absentmindedly before touching the name on the screen. In doing so, another picture popped up, overlapping theirs, and she gasped out loud, saying, “Holy shit! I didn’t…the name…I didn’t put two and two together.”
I was at her side a moment later and put my arms around her asking, “What is it lover? What has you feeling so surprised?”
“Her!” she pointed back at the screen. “She’s…that’s…” Turning to look back at me, she finally explained, “Eric, that’s the woman whose murder put you on the FBI’s radar.”
Beneath her picture listed her date of death and the evidence gathered indicating the other three to be her murderers. It seemed to hit us both at the same time when she said, “You were the one who figured out they killed her.”
“It would seem so given it appears I am spying on not just you,” I admitted.
She stared at the screen for a moment longer when her head began to move infinitesimally as she offered, “Or maybe you were protecting.”
“What do you mean lover?” If she was implying I had been protecting either the dead woman or three dead vampires, I hadn’t done a very good job. Seeing as how they were all dead.
I vowed I would do better for my lover.
She turned in my arms to face me once more as she explained, “What if you’re keeping track of the vampires not just so you know who’s where, but if it’s to keep your secret under wraps too? You described a few of them as loyal, so I imagine you would return the favor and help them out if they needed it. With this you would always be able to find them if they were in trouble. And if they were causing trouble, you’d be able to find that out too by backtracking where they’ve been.” Her brain and emotions seized for another split second before she exclaimed, “The phones! You have your own tech firm that manufactures them and they’re locked up tighter than my knees have been all night long. The FBI was never able to break through your encryption, but every phone these days has GPS. You gave me one when I first started working for you and you were able to find me at the bar when I was getting my drunk on after I overreacted and you were eying up that blond on the dance floor. You gave me a phone to bring to Callaghan the day I found Tara at his house and now that we know he was a vampire too, I bet it was so you could track him!”
“So you believe I am…what? Are you insinuating I am the vampire leader of Louisiana?” It sounded even more incredulous than me having a zombie bromance.
“No!” she cackled out loud and likely would’ve fallen to the floor had I not had my arms around her. She barely got her breathing under control, muttering about something being ironic, when she wiped the tears from her eyes and looked up at me, sputtering out, “You’re Batman!”