Did I just insinuate that I loved him?
Considering I was covered in a light dusting of my supposed kin, it was the absolute last on a getting-longer-by-the-minute list of shit I needed to worry about, but still…
Well…if I did, then I blamed my missing brain to mouth filter.
And his stupid face.
His stupidly handsome – even with a slight overbite and don’t laugh at the pun Sookie, just don’t – face.
But I supposed it wasn’t all that surprising the L-word wasn’t the only thing that could make it past any filters. The L-sound made it through too because I heard Eric ask the top of my head, “What’s so funny?”
“Your face,” my filter-less mouth replied.
If eye rolls had a sound, I imagined Eric’s would have sounded like a pair of sneakers tumbling around in a dryer right about then. But thankfully he ignored me and my rambling, so I could only hope that would include any Frankenstein lovey dovey-ness on my end.
Which he did.
Only I almost wished he hadn’t when his next words were, “We can’t stay here. There may be more of them.”
How I went from having no family left – to killing what family claimed to be mine – to having to run away from more of them neither one of us were sure even existed, I’ll never know.
All I knew was that I was too tired to do much more than a slow walk.
But Eric could fly – literally – and I didn’t want him dragged down into the dusty hell he’d woken up to, so I straightened my shoulders and looked up at him, saying, “You should go. I’ll stay here and deal with them as they come.”
It made sense to me. If they were to be believed, then they could find me no matter where I was. But the vampires who didn’t yet know I was what they were looking for wouldn’t know where to find me, so at least I would only be facing half of the supernatural posse out to get me.
Just the thought brought to mind another L-word.
As in, my life.
Wondering what else Eric had lying around that was made of iron, I contemplated a trip to Wal-Mart for a super soaker gun and some lemon juice, when he knocked that thought out of my head by snarling, “You will be coming with me.”
Literal was yet another L-word that – like lame – defined me at the moment, so I nodded, “Been there, done that. But now really isn’t the time for any hanky panky.”
When my words of snarky wisdom were met with nothing but a harsh glare, I glared right back and said, “That’s why you should go. They said they could smell you. On me. In me. And as appalled as they were by it, they seemed pretty pleased thinking I was already doing their dirty work for them, so I’m guessing they didn’t figure out you survived the Sookie Sexperience. But as invasive as all y’all’s olfactory senses are, I will not be defined by the visitors to my vagina. And since they didn’t know it was the vampire sheriff giving them a case of stank face, I’m hoping anyone else who comes sniffing around won’t know it’s you either.”
Didn’t he get it?
He wasn’t Eric Northman, Thousand Year Old Vampire and Sheriff of Area Five when the sun was up.
He was a sitting duck.
Eric Northman, Daytime Duck.
“Visitors?” he questioned, with eyes so narrowed they were practically closed, so I shrieked back at him, “That’s what you got out of everything I just said?”
“You are my wife!” he bellowed back at me.
And then everything just stopped.
The crickets stopped chirping.
Even the piles of my kin seemed to settle down from the little dust storms they’d been making.
Wondering if something had been lost in translation – and maybe the word wife in vampire-speak meant the-girl-you’ve-been-banging-on-the-regular – I primly asked, “Ex-squeeze me?”
Looking like he was sucking on a lemon, I figured I wasn’t the only one afflicted with L-words, but when he didn’t respond, I hedged my bets by saying, “You know, just because I accepted your non-proposal in the kitchen, it doesn’t mean we’re actually married.”
Even if we’d already consummated said non-marriage multiple times.
Just ask my dead fairy kin.
You’ll need a Ouija board, but go ahead. Ask.
Turning away from me Eric began to march right back into the house, but he only got two steps away before he seemed to think better of it and turned around again to grab ahold of my arm and drag me inside with him.
Right through what was left of my supposed cousin, Claudine.
“Pack your things,” he ordered, paying no mind to the fact we were tracking fairy godmother footprints through the house. “I have another safe house we can stay at in the meantime and Decoudreau should be able to come up with something to hide you from your Fae kin.”
All I could picture was a head to toe morph suit, maybe in the color of his couch.
If I laid down on it then no one would see me.
Or better yet, a black one, so I could slink around in the shadows.
Shadow Sookie, Fairy Slayer.
Snarky sidekick of the Daytime Duck.
But remembering I was supposed to be mad at him about maybe being married without my knowledge – and not thinking about a kickass nom de guerre for myself – I dug my heels in, leaving Eric no choice but to let go or detach my arm.
Thankfully, he chose the former.
So I chose the moment his exasperated eyes met mine to ask, “When you say I’m your wife, what does that mean exactly?”
His expression ticked up from Exasperated Level 5 to Level 10 in a single blink.
It was impressive, like my new title.
Sookie Stackhouse, Vampire Aggravator.
“It’s a noun,” he glared. “The title is given to a woman to whom a man is married.”
“Thanks, Merriam-Webster,” I glared back. “I got that part, just not how it applies to me.”
Sighing, he seemed to find the wall behind my head absolutely fascinating, and told it, “You are my wife.”
“In what world?” I laughed, sounding just as hysterical as I felt.
So, a lot.
Taking a step closer, so I had to tilt my head up to look at him, Eric sighed, “In mine.” And when I just gawped at him, like a fish out of water, he added, “It’s for your protection.”
Doing the asinine arithmetic in my head, two and two still equaled five, so I asked, “So…what? You just tell everyone I’m the old ball and chain and they’ll believe it? No one’s gonna ask for a marriage license or something?”
Marriages between humans and vampires weren’t even legal in our state.
Not that I was human.
Not fully, at least.
Not that anyone other than him, me, James Earl Jones, and Lauryn Hill knew about anyways.
“There was a witness,” he admitted in a voice so low I may have imagined the words.
But doing real math wasn’t a problem and knowing the two of us had only been around one other person – who resided on this plane of existence, at least – since our single failed friendly date at his bar, I spat out, “Your bokor buddy.”
He didn’t deny it, so I took that as an affirmative. But trying and failing to recall saying ‘I do’ at any point in the night, I asked, “When?”
“When you handed me the ceremonial pledging dagger,” he eventually admitted.
“The wha…?” I began to ask, but then I remembered.
Liberace’s Thanksgiving carving knife didn’t come from Sky Mall.
It came from the Marriage Mall.
It figured though.
The L-words just kept on coming.
And pledging dagger?
It sounded like something out of Prison Fraternities Gone Wrong or a weapon for a really pissed off housekeeper.
If it was made of iron and shot lemon scented Pledge out of the tip, then maybe it would actually be useful.
Our footprints were leaving behind clues even Scooby Doo could follow.
But as ridiculous as it sounded, when the epiphany finally struck, it came out of my mouth in an accusatory, “You knew!”
Because of course he knew.
He was the one telling me about it.
“It was for your protection,” he repeated in a weird mishmash of anger and insistence.
So I knew I sounded just like him, both angry and insistent, when I replied, “And you need to leave me behind for your protection.”
I couldn’t deal with his husband-y what-the-fuckery. Not when there was another L-word floating around in between us that neither one of us were willing to own up to.
To ourselves or to each other.
So I did what I did best.
I ignored it.
But Eric and I had a lot more in common than snark and a vast knowledge of As Seen on TV products.
He proved it when he ignored my words and stormed into the bedroom, with me hot on his heels, as he rifled through the Men’s Wearhouse doubling as his closet.
Tossing a couple of duffle bags onto the bed, he pointed at one and said, “Pack. I need to call Decoudreau and see if he’s willing to meet us again tonight, but we’ll likely have to go to him in New Orleans.”
“He’s probably already in Shreveport by now,” I snapped back at him and his my-way-or-the-highway attitude.
I’d remind him of what happened the last time someone like him got in my way on the highway, but he was there.
He saw what happened.
Not that Eric had to worry about exploding into gooey bits if he bit me.
Only one part of him exploded into gooey bits when he bit me and it was an enjoyable experience for us both.
That thought only reminded me I needed to replace my car, what with the vampire bits all over my last one. But the sound of Eric’s voice put an end to my mental flip through AutoTrader, when his head whipped my way, with his questioning, “What makes you say that?”
“My brain,” I deadpanned and pulled out my Mrs. Merriam-Webster to add, “Synapses fire and make my mouth form words that come out. With sound.”
“Sookie,” his stupid sexy face growled.
“What?” I snapped in return. “When I called him earlier he said he wasn’t that far away and offered to come help me fight off those assholes. I told him thanks, but no thanks.”
“Why,” he snarled, looking even angrier than before and putting himself all up in my face, “would you refuse his offer for help in fending off three full-blooded fairies?”
“Because no one other than Pam knows where you live!” I yelled. “I wasn’t going to give away where you rest for the day! It’s bad enough they found out just because I was…”
The ‘here’ was more or less yelled directly into Eric’s mouth, since he’d covered mine with his own.
We were giving each other a different kind of tongue lashing now.
I was gross, covered in the dusty remnants of assholes with attitudes I’d adjusted with extreme prejudice, and yet Eric was licking his way across my jaw and neck like I was covered in vampire catnip.
And I was inclined to let him keep on keepin’ on.
I blamed his stupid sexy face.
I blamed my missing filter for trying to put a kibosh on the whole thing, when I heard myself ask, “Weren’t we fighting?”
I was pretty sure we were, but then again, we were apparently married.
And I was pretty sure we weren’t.
Maybe I was in a bizarro plane of existence where everything was the opposite?
“We still are,” Eric answered my already forgotten question, sounding more like he was in awe than he was angry anymore.
I was on Opposite Earth.
But since I was from Regular Earth, I felt the need to inform Opposite Earth Eric, “This doesn’t feel like fighting.”
Unless you counted the fact we were fighting each other’s clothes off of our bodies.
Something I wasn’t doing fast enough, according to some impatient vampires I knew, when he volleyed back, “My zipper would disagree.”
He accentuated his point by placing his hands on my ass, so he could rub the front of his body against mine.
He made a mighty fine point.
But he both sounded and felt like Regular Earth Eric, so it blew my theory out of the water, which was fine really.
I had enough going on, on Regular Earth and I might feel bad for killing my fairy kin on Opposite Earth.
They were probably really nice over there.
My inclination to get him naked was getting even stronger, despite how tired I was. But even in the process of freeing his mighty fine point from its denim prison, I needed some sort of explanation for why he’d dropped the attitude in favor of dropping my drawers instead, so I asked, “What’s with the about face?”
I thought I knew Eric pretty well by then and from what I knew, he wasn’t one to back down.
Sure, he could deflect like nobody’s business – and apparently marry unsuspecting houseguests with nothing more than a bedazzled Ginsu – but he’d gone from being worked up enough to spit nails, to being worked up enough to hammer nails, in the blink of an eye.
It was enough to make me dizzy.
Which admittedly, with the day I’d had and on so little sleep, wouldn’t take much.
“You refused much needed help and chose to confront three fairies intent on doing you harm, completely on your own, merely to keep my resting place secret,” he eventually answered, sounding like something neither one of us wanted to give a name to.
So we both ignored that too.
He had me under him and was in me a second later, with the affection in his tone a direct contradiction to his next words, when he lovingly warned with a harsh thrust of his hips, “Do something so stupid again and I’ll kill you myself.”
Even as my body arched into him, I found the wherewithal to snap back, “You’re welcome.”
But at least we seemed to be on the same page about one thing.
This really wasn’t the time for sexin’ each other up, what with my fairy kin blowing around his yard.
So it was a good thing Eric was really good at time management because we were both flying high and coming apart at the seams in no time at all.
Still trying to catch my breath – an issue Eric and I didn’t share for once – I squirmed away from his tickling fingertips trailing down my side and breathed out, “What was that?”
I mean, I’d heard of make-up sex, but I was almost certain we were still fighting.
Aiming an arched brow my way, his eyes narrowed in the next second, like he just remembered we were mid-fight too.
So I didn’t take offense when he jumped out of bed and snatched his clothes, throwing them on and ignoring me in favor of making a phone call.
Our impromptu romp took the last of what little energy I’d had left and I was too tired to brow beat him back into an argument neither one of us was willing to compromise on.
Maybe I could order a nice cozy iron lung from Amazon to take a nap in? Or soak my aching body in a cast iron clawfoot tub full of lemon juice?
It would at least keep the fairies away.
And the latter would give my hair some highlights if I ever saw daylight again.
But with the way the last few hours had gone, I couldn’t take for granted I would see another day, which was depressing.
Because it was true.
My eyes had drifted shut and I’d almost forgotten Eric was even in the room, even though it was his presence that left me relaxed enough to let my guard down and fall asleep. At least it had been, until a piece of fabric – that turned out to be my shirt – landed on my face and I heard him say from the other side of the cotton blend covering my eyes, “Get dressed. Decoudreau will be here any minute.”
“Because there’s a clear and present danger?” I half-snarked, pretty sure James Earl Jones died in that Tom Clancy movie.
Hopefully the bokor version would have better luck.
“Yes,” Eric agreed, tossing my jeans on the bed too.
Pulling the t-shirt off of my head, I sighed, wanting nothing more than to take a nap. But feeling Eric’s gaze on me, much like the cotton blend I’d just removed from my face, my eyes opened and confirmed that yes, he was staring at me.
I didn’t know if I was impressed he was only staring at my face or offended, since the rest of me was as naked as the day I was born.
But the way he was looking at me – like he wanted to look away but couldn’t – made me feel like the train wreck my life had become, so I reached for the sheet to cover myself when he halted my progress by sitting on the bed beside me.
Watching him pierce his fingertip on the tip of his fangs made me realize he hadn’t fed from me earlier. While Eric didn’t always bite me when we were getting busy, he usually did, so I didn’t know what to make of it when he rubbed the pooled blood on the small cut I could feel on my cheek and then repeated the process on my cut lip. But the seriousness behind his eyes made me uncomfortable.
I wanted to have a meaningful discussion right then, about as much as I wanted to shit in my own hands and clap.
So I took a page out of his book and attempted to deflect whatever was on his mind by sucking his fingertip into my mouth and giving him flirty eyes.
Little did I know my actions would be the catalyst for him to say, “We need to talk about that,” punctuating his words with a light tap against my lips.
“I know it’s not your preferred appendage to put in my mouth,” I smirked and then teased, “But there’s no time for me to play lickety-spit with Little Eric.”
“Sookie,” he sighed, fighting off the small grin I could tell was trying to form on his face.
His stupid sexy face.
So I blamed how stupid his sexy face made me, when I only had a second to catch the determination taking over his expression and lickety split – like he was ripping off a Band Aid – he spit out, “I want to bond with you.”
“Huh?” I asked, with my too tired brain trying to catch up, and then offered, “We’re already…uh…buds?”
And – according to him – married.
But I was still ignoring that particular what-the-fuckery, so when he didn’t look impressed with my terminology, I switched it up with, “Bros?”
I had a feeling an offered fist bump would’ve left me hanging, but truthfully, I didn’t know what to call Eric.
He was my best friend – with the best benefits ever – but since we both knew he was my only friend – and likely the only one I could have said benefits with – I didn’t want to make it sound like his achievements were by default.
Even if I could have had sex with anyone I wanted, I was pretty sure Eric would surpass them all.
And while Mary Shelly’s words might have insinuated I loved him – and maybe I could even admit to myself that I did – I couldn’t truthfully say to either one of us that I was in love with him.
But bros I could totally admit to.
Out loud and everything.
“A blood bond, Sookie,” he sighed out. “A permanent one.”
Not quite the three little words skittering across my mind, but somehow they were just as scary.