My fingers had miraculously grown even more during my daytime rest. And while it had been enough for me to be able to dress myself, they weren’t quite long enough to securely grab onto the mutt’s fur, so I used what strength I had regained instead to pin him in between my hands. I suspected he’d been hired by Lanier to track me and had every intention of taking out all of my frustrations on the filthy shifter, relishing the sound of every yelp, whine, and cry that came from his muzzle.
I needed the outlet fighting would provide to make up for the fact that no matter what I’d done the night before, Sookie’s eyes only held pity for me. The lust she’d shown for me at our initial meeting was gone and for the first time in my life, I felt inferior – like I was less of a male. She’d seen me rip a vampire’s head from his shoulders and then was there to witness me not even being able to turn off a fucking faucet on my own.
It was demeaning.
It was humiliating.
And the person I wanted to pay for it wasn’t there, so the shifter would have to do.
I’d spent half the night pathetically standing in her bedroom doorway just watching her sleep, at first telling myself it was just because I was trying to figure out what she was. Her blood was too good to be pure human, but there was no way for me to know for sure and no real clues to help me solve the nagging it caused in the pit of my gut. Her bedroom was rife with her scent and I inhaled it like a drug, trying to pick apart the different nuances until I was left just as clueless as when I’d first walked in. But it made no difference. I continued to do so merely because I enjoyed it.
When she woke up and found me standing there, it was probably the only way other than sunrise that would get me to leave her room. And as I lay there in the bed she’d put fresh linens on, in the room she’d made light tight just for me, I felt completely and utterly defeated – even more so than when I’d been chained to the table she’d found me on. The look in her eyes – or rather the lack of expression I’d hoped to see – when she’d undressed me had been more tortuous than losing my fingers one by one. Yes, she was nervous, but that I attributed to her refreshingly innocent demeanor. I’d already known she wasn’t like the fangbangers I’d grown accustomed to and yet giving her license to do with me as she pleased – an offer no other human had ever been given – she merely bathed me. She showed none of the desire I’d hoped for – expected – and instead looked relieved she wouldn’t have to see what her hands were cleaning underneath the bubbles. That I surmised was likely for the same reason she’d refused my blood – another offer no other human had ever been given.
She thought me weak.
What burned more was the fact I agreed with her. In my debilitated condition I wasn’t a suitable protector for her. Even a Were would be better than me at the moment, but I had to offer. I had to try because no matter what, I would be forever indebted to her for one simple fact.
She’d saved me.
On the night we’d first met, I’d likely saved her life too. But her actions held more weight than my own because Malcolm and his nest mates were no match for me. My life had never been in any danger, but Sookie not only risked her life by coming to me when Lanier could’ve shown up at any time. She’d freed a starved vampire who, as far as she knew, would see her as nothing more than a meal. And now she’d invited me into her home when she would be all alone. She’d given me shelter without asking for anything in return. She’d fed me again by practically forcing her uniquely appetizing blood into my mouth. And she had even gone so far as to trust me enough to fall asleep without shutting her bedroom door – much less locking it – even if it wouldn’t have made any difference.
Of course she didn’t stop there and had managed to surprise me yet again. I rose to find new clothing meant for me, freshly laundered and stacked outside of my door, when I knew she didn’t have much money to spare. But all of that paled in comparison to the one offer I hoped I could refuse and yet knew I would not.
She wanted to help me locate and free my child.
She would’ve already seen the violence our captors were capable of, so she knew it would be dangerous. And I would do all that I could to keep her safe, but her gift would be too useful to reject her proposal and there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to get Pam back. Even now I could feel my fangs already elongating inside of my gums, so I could only surmise I would be at full power in just another day or two. Be it from my age or Sookie’s unique blood, I didn’t know. But Pam wouldn’t be left to suffer for much longer.
The sound of Sookie screaming my name broke me from my thoughts, making me realize I had the mongrel pinned underneath me with my hands choking the life out of him. It was only seconds later when his own weakness made his ability to maintain his shift too much to bear. Within moments I was suddenly on top of a scrawny man, with a wiry build, and it was enough to cutoff Sookie’s screams. So in the ensuing silence I could clearly hear her whisper, “Sam?”
“You know him?” I snarled.
It only made his association with Lanier all the more plausible, but she was quick to add, “He…he’s my boss.”
One would think she would’ve heard his thoughts pertaining to his involvement with the Fellowship if she were around him on a daily basis. But hearing her surprise I released his throat and stood up – now that it was clear I was the stronger of us both – and decided to get answers from him first before sending him to his death.
“Who sent you?” I growled down at him.
“No…no…nobody,” he sputtered, trying to get air back into his lungs. “I came to check on Sookie.”
Keeping one eye on him, I turned the other towards her, asking, “He does this often?”
I didn’t care for the thought of stray shifters keeping such a close eye on her goings on, but from her expression I gathered he didn’t. “How…” she asked confusedly making me realize she had no knowledge of shifters and therefore likely Weres as well.
It only made me assume she didn’t know she wasn’t fully human either, so that mystery wouldn’t be solved any time soon, but I explained, “He’s a shapeshifter. He can take the form of any animal. You did not know?”
I would’ve thought his own thoughts would’ve given away his secret, but she was already shaking her head as she softly answered, “No…I…I try to stay out of his head and it’s normally hazy at best anyway.” But when he sat up, her shock morphed into anger as she stomped towards him furiously asking, “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
The mutt had the courtesy to look chagrined while he muttered, “I didn’t want it to freak you out. What was I supposed to say? By the way Sook, you know that dog you pet out back sometimes? That’s me! You probably would’ve thought I was crazy.”
I was surprised actual fire didn’t shoot out of her eyes given her livid expression and I felt gratified at having already guessed the reason why when she confirmed, “You mean like how everyone thinks I’m crazy? You! You of all people should’ve known better. You’ve known about my disability for years and instead of trusting me, or thinking how much better I might feel knowing I wasn’t the only one with something to hide, you just left me out in the cold. Thanks a lot Sam Merlotte!”
In his flustered state he returned her anger by spitting back, “Is that why you’re with a vampire? Because you’re lonely?”
I think she surprised even herself when the sound from her slapping his face rang out into the night, but not trusting him to not hit her back, I quickly put myself in between them. It hardly made a difference since she struggled to lean around me, with my arms barely managing to keep her behind my body, as she yelled back, “Don’t you dare speak to me that way! You know better than anyone else I’m not like that! And just because you never had the balls to ask me out doesn’t give you the right to judge me for who I choose to spend time with. No matter what my relationship with Eric is, it’s none of your business!”
Sadly, I hoped he would ask her to clarify what ‘our’ relationship was because I was dying to know.
I didn’t get my wish though because he stupidly followed up with, “And what would your Gran think if she knew you were shacking up with a vampire while she was away?”
Sookie let out her own impressive growl and redoubled her efforts to fight against my hold, managing to slide down my body enough so that she could kick him, as she snarled, “I think she’d whoop you with a switch for suggesting any such thing and then haul your ass to the pound!”
I’d been morose and hostile – nearly since I rose – hell, nearly since she’d first rescued me. But Sookie had managed to make it all disappear in one foul swoop and now that I knew he wasn’t a real threat to either one of us, I found myself laughing out loud. I turned my back to him, lifting her still struggling body into my arms, and carried her up to the porch, saying, “Perhaps if she just got him neutered he would be better behaved.”
Her struggling was drastically reduced until she was only fighting off her grin, but she couldn’t stop herself from snickering out, “It would serve him right if she did.”
“Sookie!” The sound of the mutt’s voice caused both of us to make identical frowns and I considered killing him for merely making her smile go away. But unaware of his impending demise he moved closer to us, saying, “He’s dangerous. You don’t know what the Supernatural world is like – what vampires are capable of, chere. I’m only trying to look out for you.”
Undeterred and ever defiant, she rolled her eyes and pointedly looked upwards, replying, “Yeah, well I’m trying not to look at all of you. So would you mind putting some clothes on?”
When he mumbled he didn’t have any with him, she told him where he could find a pair of her brother’s sweatpants on top of the dryer on the back porch. And as soon as he returned to find her sitting next to me on the couch, he opened his mouth again, but she held up her hand and declared, “Stop! I’ve known Eric for a while now and I know full well what he’s capable of. He’s already saved my life once and I have no doubt he would’ve killed you if he thought you were a threat to me, so just get over yourself already and quit talking to me like I’m a child.”
He folded his arms across his chest and glared down at me – trying to intimidate me, but directed his questions at her asking in rapid fire, “Who did he save you from? And why is he here? What does he want from you? Is it your telepathy? Is he blackmailing you? Threatening you?”
“Gee,” she said sarcastically and ignored every one of his questions, instead going to the root cause of them in her mind by adding, “I guess those are the only reasons a guy as good looking as Eric would want to darken my doorway, huh?”
No, but at least now I knew she still found me ‘good looking’.
Even hearing his imbecilic and hostile inquiries, I was still amused by Sookie’s antics, but I found myself glowering back at him when she followed up with, “Funny, considering you couldn’t tear your eyes away from my boobs this afternoon.”
The shifter managed to blush almost as much as Sookie, but he ignored her taunting while not denying it and said, “That’s why I’m here.”
“Because of my boobs?” she asked with a raised eyebrow. But when her eyes briefly flicked towards me, it made me realize the low growl rumbling through the room was coming from my throat.
“No! Because I smelled a vampire when you and Dawn were in the office, but I figured it came from her since I knew you went to Rene’s thing last night. But when I was standing next to Dawn later on, I didn’t smell it anymore and realized it must have come from you. I was worried about you.”
I recognized the name Dawn from Sookie’s line of questioning when I’d been driving her home on the night we’d met. Now knowing she was a telepath, I had to surmise from her stuttering explanation she’d seen me in this Dawn’s thoughts, but I had no way of knowing if it had repulsed her or led her to believe there was something more to whatever she’d witnessed.
Perhaps that was why she’d acted aloof the night before?
A false impression was something I could easily deal with and a much more suitable option than trying to overcome any distorted opinions she might have formed seeing me in my weakened condition. But it was only then that I realized where my train of thought had led me to.
I wanted her to be mine.
I quickly shook those thoughts away while Sookie and the mutt continued to bicker. Pam was – and should be – my priority. I was grateful for everything Sookie had done for me and I would find a way to show my appreciation, but I couldn’t afford to entertain the notion of pursuing her. I didn’t do relationships – I fucked and fed – and from what I knew of her so far, I suspected that would not be enough for the intriguing telepath. The novel she’d fallen asleep reading told me as much. She subscribed to the human notions of love and romance – and regrettably, it was probably the only thing I couldn’t give her.
But if she wanted to fuck me, I certainly wouldn’t deny her.
“I don’t like it,” the mongrel grumbled, as though he was a vampire telepath, and drew me back into their conversation. “You know how everybody in town is. It’s dangerous for you to have him here.”
Sookie stood and walked over to the dog, placing her hand on his slumped shoulder and said, “I’m not asking you to like it, but as my friend I’m asking if I can count on you to keep my secret.”
If not, he wouldn’t have the chance to tell anyone. The convenience alone of having a cemetery next door would make it a simple matter to take care of.
My irritation returned seeing the sappy look in his eyes as he stared back at her. Romance – and maybe even love – was undoubtedly something he wanted with her and could give her. And I wanted to rip him to shreds for it, but all he said was, “Of course I’ll keep your secret chere. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”
His eyes darted over to glare in my direction and I returned it – albeit for different reasons – but Sookie took a step to the side to put herself in between us and asked, “So…can I buy those cases of Tru Blood from you that you have in the storeroom?”
Again, she was offering to spend money I doubted she could afford and I made a mental note to bring up repayment for her services later on when we were alone. Meanwhile the dog huffed out a, “No,” and just as her body tensed to argue with him, he put his hand up to stop her and added, “You can have them for free. I was planning on writing them off anyway. It’s not like I expect we’ll be getting any vampire customers anytime soon.”
My irritation turned into white hot possessive fury watching her throw her arms around his scrawny body and seeing him inhale what I knew to be her incredibly sweet scent made my re-growing fangs itch to tear out his throat. She wasn’t mine, so it shouldn’t have bothered me and seeing her have such high regard for a shifter should’ve only served to make her less attractive in my eyes.
And yet it didn’t.
I’d wanted her from that very first night, but now – now when I owed her more than I could possibly repay in her lifetime – now when I knew how unselfishly courageous she was, I wanted her more than almost anything.
But my child had to be my priority.
My attention never wavered from the two of them and I listened as Sookie promised to stop by the following afternoon to get the swill from the dog before we gave each other one final glare and he begrudgingly left. When she returned to her spot next to me on the couch I grimaced smelling his foul odor on her, but ignored it in favor of asking, “Are there any other suitors I should expect to come calling this evening?”
Her blush was magnificent and I found myself slightly leaning towards her as she replied, “No, and Sam’s not a suitor. He’s my boss.”
“He wants to be more than just your boss,” I volleyed back.
She waved her hand dismissively and didn’t deny it, only saying, “Whatever. The fact remains he’s my boss, so nothing’s gonna happen there. Besides, even now that I know why he’s harder for me to hear, all bets are off when I touch him just like any other regular human. When I was hugging him just now I heard him think that he hopes Rene doesn’t find out you’re here, so I think our secret is safe.”
Her ability was fascinating and I felt a little better knowing the mutt wouldn’t be telling tales, but what caught my attention more than her words was her defeated tone of voice. I hated inquiring but couldn’t stop myself from asking, “If you wanted to be with him, couldn’t you just find another job and use your shields when you…touch him?”
“No,” she muttered uncomfortably and then changed the topic by saying, “I was going to pick your brain tonight on how Sam would’ve smelled you on me today. I heard him think it when I picked up my paycheck this afternoon, but now that I know why, I’m curious. Are there other Supernaturals besides vampires and shapeshifters?”
I wanted to go back to our previous topic because her admission of being able to clearly hear thoughts whenever she touched someone was leading my mind down a path I wouldn’t have guessed possible – not with how kind and beautiful she was. While one of my first impressions of her was that she was an innocent, at the time it had nothing to do with her virtue, but now I couldn’t help but wonder. It even put her reactions from the night before in a whole new light.
Was Sookie a virgin?
Her inquisitive expression reminded me she waiting for my answer, so for the next few hours I explained all that I knew about the different types of Supernatural beings out there. And it only took as long because of all of the questions she asked. She was so unlike the humans I’d been surrounded by – bright, respectfully curious (she immediately connected the dots in asking about the mechanic I’d contacted to fix her car and the Hotshot community), but most of all she was accepting. Instead of being repulsed or fearful, she was eager to meet each and every kind and even felt bad for shifters like her friend for having to hide what they were. There had been talk amongst the Were community on eventually revealing themselves to the human population and if the world was full of Sookies then they would have no problems. But given the backlash vampires now suffered thanks to Area 9, the idea had been scrapped for the time being.
When our conversation was done she left the room to get a drink, but when she returned with a glass of tea, she also held the paring knife from the night before in her other hand. Just remembering what she’d tasted like was enough to make my fangs throb, but we both startled at the sound of them actually clicking down. My tongue immediately ran over the tips and while they weren’t fully regrown, they were much longer than should’ve been possible. So my eyes automatically went back to who the likely culprit was for them to be that way.
Sookie smiled back at me shaking her head in wonder saying, “That’s really something. You all heal so fast.”
Even though I knew she wasn’t completely human, I didn’t want to upset her by telling her of my suspicions when I didn’t know what else she could be. Although given her taste, I suspected she was part Fae because nothing tasted as good as a fairy. Instead I thought of easing her into the concept by admitting, “We don’t. Not from injuries like the ones I suffered.”
I held up my hands staring down at my fingers, already more than a third of the way regrown, and added, “I suspect it is due to your blood.”
“But that’s what you said last night,” she argued. “You needed human blood to heal and get your strength back.”
“Human blood, yes, but I’ve had to regrow fingers before. It took weeks on a diet of purely human blood.”
“But…” she paused with her eyes locked onto my hands. “But it looks like you’ll be as good as new in just another day or two.”
I waited until her eyes met mine before agreeing, “Exactly.”
“So what are you saying? Are you implying I’m not human?”
Yes, she’s very bright.
“Exactly,” I repeated.
Sookie waved me off dismissively once again and sat down next to me, saying, “I think I would know if I wasn’t human, Eric. You’re obviously delirious from hunger.”
She took the knife to her wrist, but I stopped her before she could make the cut and said, “I think I can manage on my own and it will hurt you less if I do it.”
Not to mention it would be more pleasurable for both of us.
I moved closer to her side and held her wrist to my mouth, pausing to inhale her intoxicating scent. Even the lingering odor of the mutt didn’t do enough to ruin Sookie’s naturally enchanting aroma underneath it and more than just my fangs throbbed, while I licked over her vein to numb it in preparation for my bite. Sookie sat there amenably while I tended to her wrist, but when she shifted slightly in her seat, the movement released the scent of her arousal. My eyes locked onto hers while I willed myself to not take things further, but hoped all the while she would make the first move, as my fangs finally slid into her vein.
She gasped, but I knew it wasn’t due to any pain she felt because her eyes gave away her lust. My fangs were just long enough to breach her skin and instead of pulling from her vein, I kept my lips sealed over the wound. Allowing each beat of her heart to fill my mouth with her blood instead. I selfishly wanted to savor the experience – savor her flavor – because I suspected once I was fully healed she would expect me to drink nothing but the synthetic blood she would be getting from the shifter. Of course if I was fully healed, then there would also be no reason for me to continue staying with her, so I took my time feeding from her knowing all too well that all good things must come to an end.
It would be easy to get lost in her taste and inadvertently drain her, but I monitored her heart rate and when I knew I’d taken enough, but not so much that it would leave her weak, I ran my tongue over the two puncture marks to stop the flow of blood. When her wrist was licked clean I pierced the tip of my finger and rubbed my blood over the wounds until they disappeared before releasing her arm and saying, “Thank you.”
It had been a while since I’d fucked anyone. In fact, the last time had been on the night before I’d first met Sookie. There hadn’t been time for frivolous fucking when I rose the following evening thanks to the massacre in Dallas and truth be told, whenever one of the women at my club blatantly tried to get my attention, I would end up comparing them to Sookie and become disgusted by them. How ironic that I had her here with me now and still couldn’t fuck her.
I really needed to stop thinking about fucking.
Even though Sookie was just as aroused as I felt, she made no move towards me and instead leaned away from me. Slumping against the armrest and taking a sip of her tea, she asked, “Have you felt any more from Pam?”
Yes, Pam. The reason I couldn’t afford to cloud my head with all things Sookie.
A part of me was always concentrated on her, so I didn’t have to think when I answered, “Yes. She’s still fearful, but not in a way that she’s in imminent danger. She’s pissed, but that’s second nature to her. And she’s uncomfortable, but not in any true pain. I’d been blocking her from feeling my own pain for the week I was held captive, but I opened up my side of our bond to her last night so that she could feel I am getting stronger and my own discomfort is gone. She feels hopeful and she’ll deduce that I’m free and knows me well enough to know that I’ll be coming for her.”
“That’s really nice,” Sookie replied with an oddly rueful smile. “To have someone who loves you enough to go through hell or high water to get you back.”
Her use of the word ‘love’ only served to remind me why I shouldn’t pursue her. Even as close as Pam and I were, ‘love’ wouldn’t be the correct word to describe our relationship to one another. But Sookie wouldn’t have any other frame of reference without being a vampire herself, so I merely said, “There is nothing that would stop me from freeing her.”
She nodded her head, but seeing her stare down at her now unmarked wrist, I recalled what she’d said about touch amplifying thoughts and asked, “I know you’ve said you can’t hear vampires’ thoughts, but does that change when you touch us?”
I didn’t think it did or else she would’ve heard everything I wanted to do to her, but another rueful expression came onto her face as her eyes looked to mine when she sighed, “No. It’s nice actually – peaceful – to be able to touch someone and not hear everything going on in their head.”
In my one thousand years it was the first time I’d ever heard the word ‘peaceful’ used in conjunction with the touch of a vampire, but I was even more surprised when she added, “It’s too bad everything is so dangerous for you all to be walking around in public now. Who knows, I probably could’ve found a nice vampire boyfriend at your bar.”
Over my finally dead body.
Instead of giving voice to my irrational thoughts, I only offered, “Surely the thoughts of someone who was actually worthy of you wouldn’t be offensive. And you wouldn’t be able to have children if you were with a vampire.”
She laughed without humor and replied, “Well, if you happen to come across Mr. Perfect, you point him in my direction because I certainly haven’t met him yet. And besides, I love children but I’ve always known I wouldn’t have them. I wouldn’t want to play Russian roulette on the off chance they’d get my curse.”
Her taste; her scent; her overwhelming acceptance of the Supernatural world and her mindset all combined to make her the perfect vampire companion.
Perhaps I’d been hasty in my earlier assessment of not pursuing her.
Up until now romance might as well have come with a heartbeat and a vagina, but I couldn’t deny my possessive feelings toward her. If I didn’t pursue her that would leave her free to form romantic attachments to filthy shifters and that I could not have. The distraction alone imagining who could be touching her each night would make freeing Pam all but impossible because instead of strategizing her escape, I’d be formulating Sookie’s would-be pursuers’ deaths.
However I lost the opportunity to discuss anything further with her when she yawned wide enough to make her eyes water and she apologized for being so tired before going to bed. In the remaining hours until sunrise I made a mental list of the vampire in my fealty I would contact when I was fully healed in order to help me free my child. But when that was done I found myself once again pathetically standing in her bedroom doorway watching her sleep. Only instead of feeling like less of a male for showing her my weakness, I wondered if I could be man enough to give her what she would likely want in a relationship.
It was the last thing on my mind when dawn took me and the first thing on my mind when I rose, but that only lasted until I recognized Sookie’s scent engulfing me and felt the heat of her body pressed against my side. I looked down without moving to see her head resting on my chest and could tell by her slow steady breaths she was asleep. But the scent of her dried tears and her mere presence in the bed distracted me enough that I didn’t hear any noise until the bedroom door opened. And a second later an unfamiliar voice rang out into the pitch black room.