My shields were about as sturdy as a tissue paper umbrella in a hurricane as soon as we’d walked into the house, so I knew most of Gran’s feelings on everything – from Eric walking in with me to having Elvis sitting across the kitchen table from her. But it was hearing her inner girlish swooning over the handsome King of Rock and Roll that had me trying to build my shields back up faster than a platoon of beavers attempting to stem the Mississippi.
Some things I just didn’t need to know about.
I probably wouldn’t have even needed to dip into her thoughts when I told her most of what had happened in the short time she’d been gone. Her expression told me all I needed to know and I was proud I came from such worthwhile stock. Even Eric seemed taken by her – which truth be told, didn’t surprise me much – but hearing him all but order me to take more of his blood in front of her had me pinching his sides like I had any hope of making him shut up.
And wish he had the gift of being able to turn back time – at the very least – so she wouldn’t have heard him. It would certainly make rescuing Pam and the others much simpler.
“Sookie only said that vampire blood can heal humans if they’re injured when she explained what those monsters are doing in Nevada. Why would you want to feed her your blood when she isn’t hurt?” Gran asked and again, I didn’t need to be a mind reader to know she wasn’t keen on the idea. The only other use vampire blood had for humans – that the general public was aware of – was as a narcotic.
Rene would have nothing on Gran. She would open up a can of whoop ass if we didn’t set her straight right quick.
Unaware his final death was looming in our kitchen, Eric merely turned to her and explained, “When taken directly from the source, our blood allows us the ability to sense the human’s emotions and their location. If Sookie were to be frightened or injured, I would know and be able to find her.”
Never mind the things I’m sure he felt from me after our first exchange of blood. Just thinking about it had my face heating up, but since it seemed ‘the grownups’ were talking I just tried to blend in with the scenery before she opened her can of whoop ass on me.
“You said she should take more of your blood. If she’s already had it, then why would you want her to take more?” I shrank away a bit when she turned her eyes towards me until she asked with concern, “Were you hurt?”
Good lord, Gran never missed a thing…
“No Gran. I’m fine,” I tried to reassure her, while wracking my brain for a way to explain without explaining, ‘Eric wanted me to have it just in case something went wrong when we hunted down the Fellowship soldiers and killed them all last night.’
So. Not. Happening.
Eric came to my rescue – perhaps thanks to me already having had some of his blood and he could feel my turbulent emotions – so he offered, “I gave Sookie a small quantity of my blood last night in the event she might have need of my assistance, but it was a minute amount. If the two of you insist on doing your reconnaissance then I would feel better having a stronger link to her. Taking my blood a second time would make her stronger, would allow me to feel her over greater distances, and give me more insight into what she’s feeling. In spite of all of that, now that we know how much of a danger Newlin is, if she feels threatened in any way, I won’t hesitate to right that wrong.”
Gran’s eyes widened at his implied threat, but she seemed to come to terms with it just as quickly. It made me wonder just what else she’d inferred from our earlier conversation about Rene and Gabe, but I’d been too busy trying to skirt my own way around it all to pay attention to her thoughts. Now, however, I could hear her thinking, “Good to know,” but all she said was, “Well then, that makes sense. So I won’t call you out on the fact you’ll be able to better feel if your charms are working on her.”
Hey…wait a minute…
Realizing she was right and seeing the scowl now on my face, she smiled and added, “We’ll leave you two to bicker it out.” Turning to our still silent guest, she asked with delight, “Bubba, would you care to accompany me into the living room while we wait?” I didn’t even have the time to feel affronted over her dismissal – or her all too accurate suspicions – before he stood up and was at her side in a flash, with her looping her arm through the elbow he’d extended towards her. They continued to ignore the two of us as she led him from the room while saying, “I have a coffee table book full of pictures of cats with the funniest sayings. You said you liked them, right?”
“Why yes I do, Adele,” he replied affably, while shooting a look of longing in Tina’s direction. The unmistakable timber of his voice was left unchanged with his turning and hearing it echo down the hallway made a shiver work its way down my spine – both from the sound and the unspoken implication – as they disappeared from sight. However hearing the effect it had on Gran – something akin to what I’d internally dubbed the Eric-effect – made me jump right back out of her head.
Yes, Gran was a woman. Yes, she had been widowed for a very long time. Yes, they would’ve been roughly the same age had he still been human, but…
Eewww…Not. Going. There.
Instead I threw my shields up and turned to face Mr. Big Mouth, chiding, “What is wrong with you?” He still looked amused, but tried to morph his expression into one of pure innocence. It was a wasted effort since I was sure the last time he was that innocent his umbilical cord was still attached, so I ignored that too and asked, “Why do I need your blood again? I just had it last night. Is it wearing off already?” It wasn’t like I knew the ins and outs of vampire/human blood ties, but knowing why other people coveted it, I added, “I won’t become addicted to it, will I?”
Eric’s lips formed into a small grin – more sexified than amused – and replied, “Lover, you say that as though you aren’t already addicted to me.”
That answered at least part of my question.
Nothing had worn off. He could definitely still feel my emotions.
I did feel addicted to him – his presence at least – but I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of admitting it out loud. Nor was I going to clarify his ‘Lover’ moniker by adding a ‘Future’ to it – again – and instead haughtily huffed, “The only part of that sentence you got right was a dick and you.”
After everything from the night before, my moral character was in shambles, so I figured I had nothing to lose by lining my hand basket to Hell in shoddy insults.
No point in standing in line outside of Satan’s gate when I could jump to the front.
Eric’s grin turned into a full blown smile as he scooped me up into his arms and kissed his way across my neck, lining my panties with something other than insults, and whispered into my ear, “I don’t know whether to be angry or pleased since I can tell you’re not lying.”
I tried to ignore the Eric-effect storm brewing in between my thighs and said, “I have an idea. How about you be direct instead of evasive and just answer my damn questions.”
It seemed to be his turn to ignore me because that’s just what he did for a long moment. Choosing instead to try and turn the Eric-effect storm brewing down below into a full blown category five hurricane, with nothing more than his lips and nose skimming their way across key spots on my neck.
His thousand years of experience showed.
Just when I’d nearly forgotten what we’d been talking about – or why we were still dressed – he pulled back and simply said, “No.”
“Our tie has not diminished, but it will over time. With your insistence on going to Nevada, I still would have insisted you take my blood again. It will make our connection stronger – make you stronger. Taking it again tonight only speeds up the timetable, nothing more,” he casually explained.
“So that’s all?” I asked, trying to get my brain to cooperate when he’d all but puddled my body. It made sense that he would want me to have it again before we jumped head on into the mess that awaited us in Nevada, but still, I added, “I can just drink your blood willy nilly and there won’t be any other ramifications?”
He stiffened hearing my questions, which only served to sober me up. I trusted him to tell me the truth, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t learned he could be sneaky with the best of them. My overinflated bank account was proof of that and I watched as his eyes darted away from my own suspicious ones when he finally admitted, “No.”
Gah…it was like pulling teeth trying to get any answers from him.
I pulled myself away from him completely to cross my arms over my chest and let my expression do the talking, with my eyes practically shouting, ‘No…what?’
His own eyes came back to narrow at me when he begrudgingly answered, “If we were to exchange blood three times…we would be permanently bonded to one another.”
“Permanently?” I repeated since my brain was caught on that one word like a skipping record. I liked Eric and all – a lot even – but talking about a permanent anything together was more than my exhausted brain could wrap itself around. It was too soon to be talking about forever and I could already feel myself starting to panic, which is probably why I uselessly tried to push his arms off when he wrapped his own around me again.
I might as well have been trying to push his archaic ‘mine’ mindset into the twenty-first century for all the good it did me, but he refused to let go and merely soothed, “I’m not asking you to bond with me – for now. I was merely answering your question. Taking my blood for a second time tonight will do nothing more than what I’ve already explained.”
“For now?” I asked, giving voice to my brain’s newest hiccup. All thoughts of evil pastors and horrific government conspiracies disappeared for a moment, with my sole focus being Eric. No matter how insistent he was in calling me his future lover, just because he said it didn’t make it true. If that were to happen – and it was a mighty big if – I was certain whatever future relationship we had would have an expiration date. I just couldn’t truly let myself believe there was anything more to Eric’s attraction to me than situation and circumstance.
For now…I was the only woman he could be around.
For now…he needed me to feed him my blood to make him strong.
For now…he needed me to shelter him.
For now…he needed my telepathy to help him free Pam.
So what would happen when our situation and circumstances changed?
My fight or flight instincts were still duking it out, with my panic levels having yet to drop. And even though I was sure he could feel all of that coming from me, he still managed to smile and say, “Lover, I’m not asking you for your hand if that is what is troubling you. But if you’d like to loan it to me, I know just where I would put it.”
He rubbed his front against me at the same time, letting me know exactly where he had in mind.
And he had a very dirty mind.
But it was enough to calm me down so that a small grin was able to crack its way through my panicky exterior and he soothed me even more by saying, “We will figure it out together, but for now I still want you to have my blood a second time. I’m already going against my better judgment by allowing you to be in the line of fire on my behalf, but I will take every precaution to ensure your safety.”
My insides bristled over his use of the word ‘allow’, but I wasn’t so pigheaded to not admit that the thought of him knowing I needed him to swoop in to save me should something go wrong was definitely a pro versus con on the list of reasons to take his blood again. Being a smart woman and a kept woman were two very different things in my book, but the old adage ‘Be careful what you wish for’ came to mind. I’d always wanted to be normal and now I was getting that in spades. My telepathy had both spoiled and jaded me when it came to interacting with anyone else, but now it would be up to me to decide to trust him with my heart. If what he’d said was true, then we wouldn’t be tied together forever – just for now. And considering he had no reason to lie to me, I decided to take that leap of faith and trust him at least that far.
After all, tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed.
All we had was today and today I had a hate monger to listen in to. So I pushed thoughts of forever out of my mind, replacing them simply with for now, and agreed, “Okay,” and then added, “You should eat too.”
He hadn’t touched the Tru Blood Gran had given him and Eric didn’t seem to want to give me any time to change my mind because he reached over and grabbed the paring knife from the drawer. At the same time he sat down in a chair, pulling me down with him so that I was sitting in his lap. “What are you doing?” I asked as he poised the tip of the knife at the side of his neck.
The last time I’d had his blood I’d taken it from his wrist, so that was what I was expecting now. But his earlier sexified smile overtook his face when he replied, “I’m offering you something different in presentation.”
I suddenly had the strange sensation of being Eve in the Garden of Eden, with Eric playing the role of the snake. But even so, I snorted unexpectedly because his vampire ‘apple’ blood offering was too closely linked in my mind to another vampire.
A sparkly one.
Again he didn’t seem to want to wait for any explanations on what I found so amusing and instead sliced a two inch gash into his neck. My gasp over the suddenness of it all was the only thing he needed to get the first few drops into my mouth by pushing my head against the wound. In direct contradiction to his self-inflicted violence, I heard him softly whisper, “Drink, lover.”
And in direct contradiction to all of my earlier hemming and hawing, I drank. With gusto.
As soon as I drew his blood into my mouth, every thought in my head fell away. I hadn’t been grossed out taking his blood the first time and now was no different. That same need I’d felt before resurfaced like a tsunami, filling my body just as quickly as his blood filled my mouth. I no longer knew anything but my desire for him – I wanted more of him.
All of him.
I only realized I’d moved to straddle his body when I felt my legs wrap around his waist, with Eric’s arms wrapping around my body and pressing me close. I couldn’t tell where I ended and he began, but when I felt his fangs slide into my neck, nothing else mattered. Pulling his blood into my body while he did the same made it feel as though we were one being connected by one heartbeat.
But my heart wasn’t the only organ between us that was throbbing. I could feel something else pulsing in between our two bodies further down and I automatically moved against it, with Eric’s hands grabbing onto my hips to help me along. I was a twenty-five year old virgin in every sense of the word and while I wasn’t ready to hand over my V-card just yet, I couldn’t stop myself from seeking the relief my body was crying out for. Nothing had ever felt as good as what I was feeling now and a small part of my brain knew Gran was only in the next room, but I couldn’t stop any of it. I could feel the freight train barreling down the track and I released his neck just as his wound closed, pulling in the lungful of air needed to cry out with my climax when Eric’s lips sealed themselves over my own with him swallowing the sound, while his body shuddered with his release underneath me. My hands grabbed fistfuls of his hair to keep him there, not ready to let any part of him go just yet, with Eric doing the same.
Our passion filled kiss slowed in direct correlation to the pounding of my heart until finally he pulled away, softly warning, “Lover, you test my restraint.”
Right back at ya, vampire…
Perhaps I’d been too nervous when I’d had his blood the night before to notice the effect his blood had on me then, but now I felt hyper-aware…of everything. Eric’s still form was a stark contrast to the dust motes I could now see floating around us as clearly as the fat rain drops of a summer storm. The still-wild beating in my chest thundered like Edgar Allan Poe’s own Tell Tale Heart. And even though I knew Eric could locate me with his blood alone, I realized my own body’s compulsory functions would give me away to any Supernatural nearby, no matter how silent I tried to be. Even my sense of smell was enhanced well enough that Gran’s familiar scent wafted over me as though she was hovering right at my side instead of the next room, but when I finally set my gaze on Eric, prepared to ask if my reactions were normal, I got lost in the blue of his eyes.
The color blue had never looked so fiery before.
I could’ve blamed his blood for the lust flowing through me like lava igniting my veins, but I knew that would’ve been a lie. I had wanted him – like I’d never wanted anyone – well before the first drop had ever passed my lips and my mind felt scattered, so I was thankful Eric spoke first. He derailed what my body was screaming out for, despite the tremors of my previous climax still rocking through me, when he said, “Your grandmother is waiting. We should get going.”
Hearing him mention Gran was like being doused with a welcome bucket of ice water and I shook off my stupor before shakily pulling myself to my feet. Without another word, I silently left the room and went upstairs to change out of my uniform. The distance did little to tame my urges, but seeing Gran when I came downstairs again was enough to put a lid on it. Her eyes danced as she looked back at me and I automatically tried to straighten my appearance when I read from her thoughts that I looked ‘frazzled.’ But at least she had the grace not to mention it and only said, “Took you long enough. Now let’s get going. Hopefully Maxine saved us a couple of seats up front.”
I blindly walked after her, feeling as frazzled as I apparently looked, and didn’t have the brain power to ask where Bubba had disappeared to. Eric followed us out to my car and after he helped Gran into the passenger’s side he darted back over to me, scooping me into his arms and planting a kiss on my lips. And thereby killing a few more of my brain cells before saying, “I will be close by. If I sense you are in danger, I will come for you.”
And just as quickly I was left swaying on my feet as he shot up into the darkened sky and out of sight. It took me another long minute before I had my wits about me enough to climb into the car where Gran just chuckled at me, but she left me to my own thoughts seemingly lost in her own. The drive to the volunteer fire house where the meeting was being held only took a few minutes, but it was long enough for me to shake off most of the damage Hurricane Eric had left in its wake from my head and we arrived to find a packed parking lot despite getting there somewhat early.
Gran’s eyes took in the crowd while she shook her head in disgust, harshly saying, “I’m ashamed to see just how much hatred there is in our little town.”
Seeing them all was enough to rid me of any lingering lustful feelings I had, but thanks to my gift, I wasn’t surprised at all. If anything, I would be surprised if more people didn’t show up and even though Gran had possibly been aggrandizing the size of our town by calling Bon Temps ‘little’, there did seem to be a lot more people in the crowd than I recognized. After I found a place to park, we made our way towards the building, with me catching snippets of conversations along the way, while I tried to surreptitiously locate Eric, but our blood tie only seemed to be one-sided. It wasn’t until I opened myself up and concentrated on trying to locate his void – and found him hovering just out of sight above the building – that I realized the spoken words of those gathered there only showed a fraction of the fear, anger, and disgust they had towards vampires. It made an entirely different kind of shiver work its way down my spine, but just as quickly my own fear and disgust at their thoughts turned into nothing but anger.
Did we learn nothing from the Holocaust or the Civil Rights movement? Were we destined to repeat the same atrocities over and over again, ignoring what our own history had taught us about the barbarism our ancestors inflicted on their fellow man?
I didn’t want to believe our society would sink so low yet again, but I knew all too well that some of us already had. Some of us were doing horrible and unspeakable things to sentient beings at that very moment and it was that thought that had me straighten my spine, with determination filing my veins. I would never be able to stand idly by knowing what I did and not try to stop it, whether Eric was in my life or not. So in spite of the bile in my throat, I managed to plaster a smile onto my face as I nodded kindly to some of the people I’d known my whole life, while internally spewing my own hatred back at them. I could already hear the usual ‘Here comes Crazy Sookie’ thoughts as well, but I automatically disregarded anything that had to do with me. That was nothing new, so I ignored them instead to proudly escort my impossibly brave and incredibly tolerant Gran into the lion’s den.
The air felt electric as soon as we stepped through the doors. The cacophony of the crowd’s thoughts thundered through my head, but I pressed on trying to weed through the unspoken ruminations of those around me. The general consensus was that Steve Newlin was a modern day messiah who would lead the human race to victory in a war we had no business fighting.
And my urge to vomit grew.
Gran must have sensed my difficulty because she gently squeezed my hand while sparing me a look of sympathy before Maxine caught her eye. It was a welcome distraction because with the way she was waving her arms one could expect a 747 to land down the center aisle of the crammed room, but we managed to squeeze through the throng of haters to find she had managed to save two seats for us. I could tell from her thoughts that while she feared vampires, Maxine was only there to get the gossip firsthand so she could no doubt spin it to everyone in her path the following day. She was a busybody, but I didn’t believe she would condone what was being done to them if she knew and that was what gave me the fortitude to smile genuinely at her when I greeted, “Mrs. Fortenberry, it’s good to see you again.”
“Hello Sookie darling,” she returned before patting the empty seat next to her where Gran sat down. Maxine leaned in saying, “Isn’t it exciting? There are television crews outside! Did you see them? I called Hoyt and told him to record the evening news because his mama got interviewed just like a celebrity!”
She was gushing out every word and I could read from her thoughts she was already planning her wardrobe for when – not if – she would be interviewed again, but at least her narcissism was more tolerable than the other thoughts floating around the room. Gran humored her by asking all about it while I tried to sift through the tangled snarl in my head, but I stiffened hearing the thoughts of who was just on the other side of the closed office door.
It was only a few seconds later when that same door was thrown open and he strode through it like a rock star wearing a thousand dollar suit. The crowd erupted into applause and he would give any seasoned politician a run for his money with the way he worked the room, grasping outstretched hands and kissing babies. But all the while his thoughts fluctuated between being snide – the citizens of Bon Temps were apparently redneck rubes – and the downright venomous – human or vampire, whoever was responsible for his soldiers’ disappearance would meet their maker if he had his way.
It only made me impatient for when he would meet Pam’s Maker.
That thought was enough to get me through the vitriol I was about to suffer and I settled into my seat focusing not my curse, but my gift on the man who would hopefully and unknowingly be the downfall of his ill-conceived Armageddon. As he made his way back to the front of the room and started his righteous spiel, I once again had the sensation of being Eve in the Garden of Eden, only now I knew who the slick-tongued imposter before me was as I watched him slither behind his pulpit of lies and loathing.
Without a doubt, I knew I was staring at the Devil himself.