“Do you have any other family in Sweden?”
“No my father was an only child and his parents were dead before I was born. My mother had an older brother, Olle,” he explained while absently writing a grocery list. “He emigrated to the states after finishing university. I met him as a child but I have no memory of him.”
“You never sought him out back home?” Her brows furrowed a little with the word ‘home’. It no longer seemed an accurate description of the apartment in Bethesda.
“No it’s best I retain my anonymity until I figure out why someone wanted my family dead. For all I know it may have been on his order.” Sookie nodded in understanding as she lifted herself up on the kitchen counter.
“I’d really like you to talk with my grandmother,” Eric spoke to her more seriously as he finished off his list.
“You mean talk, talk?” He gave her affirmative noise. “I don’t know how helpful I’ll be and I’m not comfortable with the whole hypnosis thing on someone whose brain is already muddled. Besides if she was already incoherent when everything happened what will she know?”
“I wouldn’t want you to hypnotise her either,” he agreed. “The times she thought I was my grandfather she’d repeat the same phrase over and over again and she seems to express a genuine fear.”
“What does she say?”
“Don’t trust the American, it’s not him, he just looks like him.”
They had taken the subway north just outside of the centre of the city to the care home where Halina Lindquist had been living for twenty years. They signed in at the desk under one of Eric’s many aliases. As far as the care home was concerned Eric, or Tobias, was the gardener’s son at the Lindquist’s villa in Vaxholm who visited his father’s former employer on his behalf.
The nurse, Goderick Stendahl, was leading them to the small solarium where Halina was enjoying the warming rays of the winter sun.
“Mrs Lindquist really doesn’t get many visitors. I think you have been the only one the last couple of years,” Goderick spoke in perfect English for Sookie’s benefit. She had been introduced as Eric’s American girlfriend, Susanna, who was here as an exchange student. It grated Sookie that every Swede she had spoken to so far, be it a shop assistant or bus driver, spoke English better than some people back home while her grasp of their language was still evading her.
“She has very little family left,” Eric said knowing that all too well for himself.
“Yes only a son. It has been a long time since he visited,” Goderick noted with a hint of sadness. “So tragic what happened to her daughter and her family.”
“She speaks about it?” Sookie asked hoping Goderick perhaps knew more.
“No. It never really registered with her, the doctors thought it best not to force such bad news on her over and over again. I remember it well though, I only just started working here it was quite the story in the newspapers.”
They had reached the solarium and Goderick bid them a good visit. Eric put down the six-pack of beer and the Prinsesstårta, a traditional Swedish cake, on the table beside her. When Sookie had commented on the weird combination when he pulled it from the fridge Eric had simply shrugged and explained his grandmother was a simple women despite her wealth and this is what she enjoyed most in the world.
“Hej mormor,” Eric said kissing her on the cheek twice once he was sure he was out of earshot of any of the nurses.
Eric and his grandmother conversed a bit in Swedish and Sookie let them until Halina seemed to be speaking directly at her. The only word Sookie seemed to be able to understand from her was Astrid, Eric mother’s name. She looked towards Eric for some guidance who seemed to be trying to convince Halina of her misconception.
“She thinks you are my mother,” he explained to Sookie. “She is very upset with you for dying your hair the colour of ditch water. She also thinks I made you do it.”
“Tell her I agree with her about the ditch water colour, I can’t wait to have my own colour back again.” Sookie said with an encouraging smile directed at the elderly woman.
“I am perfectly capable of conversing with you in English. The Swedish language too common for you these days Astrid?” Halina spoke in the most formal English accent Sookie had ever heard a person speak at her. “I knew Ulfrick would fill you with contempt for your own people.”
“I’m not Astrid, Mrs Lindquist,” she tried. “I’m Sookie, Eric’s friend.”
“What is a Sookie?” Halina said stern disapproval. “I have never heard of this, stop these silly games Astrid and kiss your mor hello.”
Eric just shrugged at Sookie so she decided to simply imitate Eric’s earlier greeting with a “Hej mor”
“Now Ulfrick why don’t you hand out the drinks and cake. At least you can make yourself useful at something.”
Eric left the sunny space to get some plates and cutlery leaving Halina and an unsure Sookie behind.
“I wish you would just get rid of Ulfrick daughter. You could do so much better.”
Entirely unsure of how to respond to that, Sookie did her best to channel Eric’s mother. “He cares for me, more than any man ever has.”
“Do you love him?” she asked, eyes laced with deep concern. “He seems so cold Astrid is he even capable of love?”
“I could love him and he is capable of loving me. I am certain of it,” Sookie answered though not quite certain if she was still really speaking of Ulfrick and Astrid. “No one has ever made me feel as warm inside as he has.”
“Always thinking with your loins aren’t you?” Halina admonished. “Whatever happened with you and that American what was his name again?”
“Russell?” Sookie tried her best guess at the unknown American.
“No, no. Stop confusing me, you know who I speak of.” It was at this moment that Eric returned in the room to a desperate looking Sookie who was scrambling for another name from Eric’s file.
“Ah Hjalmar you are here,” Halina said with a contented smile believing Eric to be her deceased husband. “Our daughter does not seem to remember the name of her American lover. What was it dear?”
“I am not sure,” Eric responded with great interest. “Maybe you remember the first letter of his name?”
“I am unsure,” she mused with her gaze distant. “A V or maybe an F… Vince? Is that right Hjalmar?”
“I don’t know Halina. Does it sound right?” he asked carefully hoping to extract more information. “Do you remember his last name?”
She shook her head in almost childlike movement. Sookie had been pushing at the extremities of her ability but it seemed what Halina could not access in her current mental state was out of reach to Sookie as well.
“Is he the American you told father not to trust?” Sookie asked hoping to awaken some memories in her.
She watched as Halina’s eyes dilated in fear.
“What do you know of him Astrid? Stay away from him he’s a danger; he’s a danger to us all. Run Astrid take Ulfrick and the children and run,” Halina screamed at her.
“Who? Who is the American?” Sookie pleaded forcing the dial as far up on her ability without falling into hypnosis.
“RUN. Astrid run as far as you can. He cannot find you,” Halina continued to scream. She reverted back into Swedish as she became extremely upset uttering words Sookie could no longer understand.
“Wait in her room. I’ll try to calm her down,” Eric instructed with an edge between the soothing sentences of Swedish he was speaking to his grandmother in an attempt to calm her panic down.
Sookie didn’t hesitate to slip into Halina’s personal room that they had passed on their way to the solarium. She looked around the room in boredom, it seemed institutional but there were some items that were distinctly personal. Sookie took note of the family photos in the thin rimmed silver frames. She was smiling at what she assumed was Eric as a young boy hiding amongst his mother’s skirt his face blurred from shaking at the camera.
She turned around when she heard a knock at the door assuming it was Eric, she was surprised to find Goderick at the door with a stack of clean sheets.
“Oh hi,” she spoke ineloquently.
“I can come back later,” Goderick offered.
“No. No it’s fine would you like some help?” Sookie responded.
“Halina is ok?” he asked as he was folding in the corner of the bottom sheet after Sookie had relayed a censured version of how Halina had gotten a bit upset after mistaking her for her daughter.
“Yes Tobias seems fit to handle her.”
“You are good at this,” he said ascertaining the perfectly folded hospital pleats on the corners of the mattress.
“My Gran always taught me how to do things proper,” she smiled at him.
“You are a good influence on Halina’s grandson I have never seen him so relaxed.”
“Tobias is not her grandson.” Sookie quickly lied, well technically ‘Tobias’ wasn’t Halina’s grandson.
“I do not know for certain but my suspicions are strong that he is her grandson Erik.” Sookie’s heart started palpitating erratically at Eric’s exposure her stomach lying heavy with dread. She wondered briefly why Goderick was sharing this with her. Only then did it dawn on her that after Halina’s outburst she never turned down her ability and Goderick was now experiencing it at full capacity.
“Have you ever shared your suspicions with anyone?” she asked trying to ascertain how harmful Goderick’s knowledge was.
“No. Only to Halina, she doesn’t believe me, she thinks of him as just a child. Her Erik is still so young. It is a bit like the mystery of the Romanov boy is it not?”
“Tobias isn’t Halina’s grandson, you can let go of your suspicions,” she said pressing her suggestion hard onto his mind only relenting when she was satisfied when it seemed to have taken hold. “Has anyone ever come to seek information on Halina or her children?”
“A reporter, a few years after her daughter was killed,” he replied as the top sheet draped over the mattress.
“Do you remember his name?”
“No. I was not here at the time. It may be in her file.” He was admiring Sookie’s handiwork with the top sheet and blanket. “You really are very good at this.”
“Thank you. Will you look up the information in her file for me?”
“Sure, you should probably take her mail with you too. She doesn’t receive a lot but there is a small pile in the office.”
“You’re very helpful Goderick,” she said giving him a soft smile.
“You’re very easy to talk to Susanna,” he returned, fluffing the pillow and gathering the dirty sheets.
“If only you knew,” she muttered to herself as soon as he was outside of his range of hearing.
Eric appeared at the door, “Susanna perhaps you can wait for me downstairs I don’t want to risk upsetting her again now that she is calm.”
“Sure. Maybe you can get me the things we were talking about Goderick.” Eric raised his eyebrow in question so she simply mouthed the word ‘later’ to him and left with Goderick towards the nurse’s station.
She started staring intently at Goderick holding his gaze as she pulled him into her hypnosis again. “Goderick you are being very helpful. You are being so helpful that you are going to take Halina Lindquist’s file and make a copy of it and hand it to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Susanna.” Goderick nodded with a distant glaze over his face.
By the time Eric joined Sookie again she was holding a thick stack of papers in the confines of her purse. She knew from Eric’s extensive file he did not have a copy of his grandmother’s medical file and at this point anything was helpful. Judging by what happened today she knew there was more to this American and Eric’s grandmother was an intricate part of the puzzle.
They bid their goodbye to Goderick as they left the care home in great haste. Sookie was barely keeping up with Eric’s lengthy stride.
“Eric, slow down please,” Sookie pleaded almost out of breath. He came to a standstill almost forgetting she was there were not for her words.
“I’m sorry I just need to get home and write things down,” he apologised.
“Here,” she said as she pulled a notepad and pen from her purse and handed it to him. He sat himself down on a low stonewall and set to scribbling in a series of diagrams. He faintly heard her teeth clattering upon themselves as his mind was making rapid connections with all the known knowledge it contained. It wasn’t until he had written out everything that was shrouding his brain that he noticed Sookie was shivering beside him.
“Shit,” he muttered as he pulled her up from the cold stone wall. “Let’s get you somewhere warm.”
The area they were in was not as densely built up as the town centre and it took a while before Eric found a coffee shop for Sookie to acclimatise again. He put a giant mug of coffee in front of her that she thanked him profusely for.
“Christ that’s strong,” she cried out her eyes wide as she took in her first sip.
He smirked at her, “You’re in Europe now where coffee actually tastes like coffee. Time to put some hair on your teeth.”
“I like my teeth fine just as they are, thank you very much,” she retorted while she loaded up her coffee with sugar and cream wondering where he had picked up this idiom.
“Was your grandmother ok after I left? I’m sorry if I went too far,” she apologised when she was finally able to digest her coffee without an instant heart attack.
“No it wasn’t you fault, she’s unpredictable but I have never seen her react this strongly,” he said reassuringly warming the frozen fingers of her free hand with his warm hands. “Whenever I asked about the American before she would simply shut down. I don’t know if it was our conversation in English or your presence.”
“Did she say anything after I left?” Sookie asked as she drank down another large gulp of coffee happy to be heating her insides.
“No, nothing of importance. What did you find?” he enquired pointing at her stack of papers protruding from her bag.
“Not here,” she said in response. Sookie doubted anyone was eavesdropping on their conversation but she worried about revealing Goderick’s suspicions to Eric. She feared for Goderick’s life at Eric’s hands and she felt it better to talk to him in private about it. “Here’s her mail though,” she said as she handed over the small stack of envelopes.
Eric set about organizing the envelopes. He had never been given her mail before it had always been forwarded to his uncle Olle and he wondered why this was no longer the case. Most of it was uninteresting administrative information that was put aside quickly along with the direct marketing mailings. When he had been unusually quiet and looking over the same letter over and over again she asked what it was.
“My grandmother has a safe deposit box I never knew about. It’s paid by a trust I have no knowledge of,” he replied absent-minded still clearly digesting the uncovered information.
“Can we get inside it?”
“Not without the key. Or I have to falsify some papers stating that one of us is her heir but the Swedish system is difficult to circumvent it could take quite a lot of time.” His mind was already whirling with the possible scenarios, wondering if his contacts would be able to work as fast as he needed them to.
“Where could the key be?” Sookie wondered aloud.
“All her possessions are in her room everything else she owned was divided between my mother and my uncle.” He checked his watch and cursed under his breath when he realised the visiting hours were over which he relayed to Sookie when she questioned his sudden darkening mood.
“Here,” she said as an idea sprang in her head as she pulled out one of her earrings. “Tell them I lost it and you’ll just quickly look for it.”
“Susanna you’re brilliant!” he exclaimed as he put a forceful smack of his lips on her forehead before running out of the coffee shop.
“You’re welcome Tobias,” she said after him even though he was long gone by the time she finished her sentence. Tobias seemed to bring out an exuberant version of Eric that Sookie had yet to meet. She softly rubbed the spot where his lips had grazed her with a small smile.
She bought herself a cup of hot chocolate as she now had enough caffeine in her system to last her for days. She was halfway through her latest drink when a triumphant Eric returned claiming, “Success!”
“You have the key? How did you find it so quickly?” she said amused with his boyish excitement.
“I asked and she told me where it was,” he answered as he handed back her earring which had her shivering from his cool touch.
“Well that was easy. Did she tell you what was inside it?”
“No she wouldn’t tell me. Who knows maybe it’s nothing,” he spoke with some restraint.
“But at least it’s something,” she smiled at him.
They made it back to the apartment just before the sun had started to set towards the horizon in the late afternoon. They were loaded up with grocery bags, which Sookie set away while Eric retreated into his ‘little cave’. He returned a little while later as he set to prepare a simple dinner of baked salmon, dill potatoes and beetroots. Sookie sat on the bench below one of the windows staring out over Gamla Stan, the old town, watching the sky turn a myriad of colours as the sun took its final descent of the day. It was fully dark when Eric announced his completion of their dinner and Sookie pulled her eyes from the emerging lights that lit up the night sky.
Eric had noticed she had been acting distant towards him again. He worried it was his callous behaviour when he was preoccupied with the turbulence in his head earlier that afternoon. He feared it might have been his forward actions back in Toronto, it had happened less than two days ago even though it seemed like a lifetime away. He apologised for his behaviour this afternoon and Sookie barely looked up at him to register what he said to her as she was too lost in thought of how to approach telling him of her conversation with Goderick.
“I’ve told you before Eric don’t apologise so much it doesn’t suit you. A man who cooks for me has little to be sorry for,” she said to him with a tentative smile. Eric turned out to be quite the accomplished cook, much to Sookie’s surprise seeing that she had not seen him near any cooking utensil in Bethesda. It was like discovering a whole new side of him in Sweden.
“Are you running away from me with Goderick?” he asked jokingly hoping to pull her from her continued state of disquiet. The man was half his size and twice his age, however friendly he may have been Eric was confident enough to know it would be the last thing Sookie would do.
She flinched at the mention of Goderick’s name. Not believing there was any truth found in his jovial statement he pressed further now worried something else had occurred in his absence. She had seemed slightly unnerved when he had come to find her in Halina’s room. Panic rose in him as his protective nature reared to the surface while his hand firmly grasped her thigh.
“Sookie did Goderick do something to you? Was he inappropriate with you, did he touch you?” he asked as fear continued to rise in his system.
“What? No he was perfectly polite,” she said, taking a brief moment for a deep sigh she watched him physically relax again as he released his hold on her. She picked at her last piece of potato as she looked at his anticipating face. “You have to promise me what I tell you won’t come at the expense of Goderick’s life.”
“I can’t make such a promise unless I know what he has done to you,” he spoke coolly like the ever stoic assassin that rested inside him. A part of Sookie wished this side of him had been left behind an ocean away too. There was no doubt in her mind had Goderick done what Eric had feared the helpful nurse would be exhaling his last breaths in minutes of Eric knowing about it. That knowledge only made the anxiety of what she had to tell him all the more unnerving.
She let out an annoyed sigh. “He hasn’t done anything to me. He won’t do anything to harm you or me for that matter. I just need to know you won’t kill him for what he confided in me.”
“If he is not a threat or an accomplice to my family’s murder he will be safe,” Eric stated simply although the commitment sounded tepid at best.
Sookie expelled a sigh of relief, “He has suspected for quite some time that you are not the gardener’s son but Halina’s grandson.” Rage seemed to flounce over his features, she grabbed the hand that rested on her body in an attempt to calm him down. “He hasn’t told anyone of his suspicions except your grandmother,” she quickly stressed trying to reign in his reaction.
“You are certain of this?” he asked after the spike of fear had tempered down again.
“Yes, I’d accidentally forgot to flip the switch to off on my ability after Halina’s outburst and it was set to high. I didn’t realise until halfway through my conversation with Goderick,” Sookie informed. “He has now let go of his suspicions thanks to a little force of my suggestion. A reporter has been the only outsider who ever came to investigate your grandmother. Goderick offered to look up the name in her file as well as hand over the mail without my persuasion.”
She pulled her copy of the file from her purse. “I ‘asked’ him for a copy of your grandmother’s file. I doubt it’s the investigators real name if it wasn’t a reporter but I figured her file may hold some interesting leads.”
Eric was touched that she had made use of her hypnotising skills. He thought after her breakdown with Long Shadow’s interrogation she wouldn’t be open to using that particular skill voluntarily and so easily. He pulled the resting hand atop his to his mouth and kissed her hand chastely in a decidedly old fashioned manner as he released the words thank you from his mouth.
“I would not have harmed Goderick based on the information you have shared with me, whether you had made me make that promise or not,” he offered in demonstration of his morality.
“That’s good to know,” she replied as she handed over the file to him.
Eric disappeared into his cave for the rest of the night. Sookie was already fast asleep for several hours when he joined her in their shared bed. He chanced a moment to burrow his face in the crook of her neck and inhale her unique natural scent. He desperately needed her proximity and he longed to snuggle into her warm inviting body. She had brought him something he never possessed before. Hope.
Her mere presence seemed to bring a calm to his eternal inner turmoil. A hint of her scent soothed an ache no one had ever been able calm. Yet Toronto had taught him to be cautious with her. Even if his body was demanding he just fuck the memory of the annoying prick out of her system. He couldn’t contain the smile at how magnificent it would be when that happened. Regretfully he kept his distance hoping for the day she might come to him instead.
Sookie woke to the distinctive smell of porridge filling her nostrils. She wafted her nose excitedly over the pot on the stove as Eric shooed her away. He explained it was his grandmother’s secret recipe; a few cardamom pods, some orange peel and a grated apple. He decided to leave out telling her of the Swedish tradition of placing a single almond in the porridge at Christmas time. Whoever found it would be married within the year. He guessed probably correctly that her abruptly broken off engagement was still a sore subject he best not bring up considering his version was loaded with the nuts.
She didn’t bother asking him where they would be heading today he would probably be shoving her out the door to the bank as soon as she finished wolfing down the delicious porridge that was topped with lingonberry jam and toasted flaked almonds.
He hardly heard her appraisal of his breakfast effort as he impatiently looked at her to hurry up and get ready to leave. The clock suffered a lot under his stare that morning. Sookie was sure that if Eric had the ability to accelerate time days would have passed with his impatient glares directed at the indicator of time.
She showered and dressed in record time and he didn’t spare the time to mock her mummified appearance. They were rustling through the crowds of the morning commuters to get to the bank in the affluent district of Östermalm not far from Strandvägen where Eric’s grandparents used to live.
Eric had spent the late hours of the evening forging a power of attorney from Olle Lindquist, Halina’s legal guardian, for his daughter Pernille Lindquist to represent him on his behalf. Sookie held her American passport under Pernille’s name at hand, as instructed, when they met up with the bank manager. When acquiring several identities for Sookie he knew it would be prudent to have one that could be used in situation just like these. He had a passport of his own with a Lindquist name for the very same reason but if he had learnt one thing from dealing with Pam it was that men never suspected a women of ill will. In Pam’s case, she proved them decidedly wrong every time.
The bank manager barely glanced at the paperwork as he led them down to the basement where he opened a series of secured doors until they were in the vault that housed Halina’s safe deposit box. He opened it using both sets of keys and left them to it instructing them to buzz when they were ready to leave again.
There were several items along with a few stacks of cash. Eric opened a small jewellery box in which he recognised his great grandmother’s wedding ring. It had been a great cause of discontent between his mother and Halina. His mother would have wanted him to take it but he figured a man without a true identity he would never get married so why bother. He set it aside to look at the other items.
There were some bonds, which he doubted held any value and copies of deeds to homes she no longer owned. A bundle of letters were neatly tied in a ribbon in what he assumed to be his grandmother’s handwriting. He set those aside to take back home. Sookie seemed to be intently staring at a photograph of a handsome man most likely taken in the 1940’s.
“Are you losing interest in me already?” he asked in mock hurt.
Released from her suspended state she replied, “No. This man,” she said trailing her fingertip over the gentle face. “He could be a dead ringer for my brother.” He took the photograph from her looking it over for any marks but found it untouched. Although Eric had never seen Jason Stackhouse in the flesh the photographs he had seen of him when investigating Sookie had left a distinctive imprint. The resemblance was uncanny. He placed the photo by the stack of letters to take with them.
They continued to look through the rest of the contents but they hardly gathered any of their interest. Eric didn’t know exactly what he was looking for but the rest were simply heirlooms of some value but of no relevance to their investigation. Eric found one more document of interest pertaining to the trust that paid for the safe deposit box. Strangely enough it was set up and maintained by a lawyer from New Orleans. They called up to the bank manager to leave and were quickly out the door with a restlessly pacing Eric as a result of the morning’s excitement.
Recognising his frantic state from the day before, she begged him to slow down again. Instead of following him home she decided she would remain in the northern part of the city to roam the shops and see some sights for as long as the cold would allow her. Instinctively she knew he would disappear into his cave alone with his thoughts. Eric hardly listened to her plans as he absently pulled her body into his while he sniffed at the scent that lingered in her hair, he dropped a kiss to her forehead before disappearing down the steps to the tunnelbanan. Again she rubbed over the point of impact with a small smile.
When she returned from her exploration of the city shortly after sunset as expected Eric hadn’t left the cave. Nor did he notice her return to the apartment. Sookie set about to make dinner and when he still hadn’t appeared when it was ready and calling to him thrice, she pulled him physically from his hideout.
He wasn’t much of a conversationalist at that point and whatever Sookie had told Eric about her day was lost on him. It continued on like this for five days where he only appeared when she dragged him out to eat. He slept intermittently on the day bed in his cave and as the days passed by his appearance began to suit his locked away hidey hole; he was looking decidedly more caveman. He was so absent minded Sookie wondered if Eric would even notice if she walked around the house naked. However, she lacked the courage to test her theory.
It was to Sookie’s great relief that on the sixth day he emerged cleanly shaven and freshly showered and dressed in clean clothes offering to help her make breakfast. He informed her he would be away that day for a few errands and offered to cook them both dinner again. Glad to see him back to some semblance of normal she didn’t dare question what had him cloistered away these past few days as she set about planning her own day of exploration.
Sookie decided to visit the Stockholm public library on Sveavägen. She ended up spending far more time in it than she had expected despite the lack of books in English. She was completely overwhelmed by the temple dedicated to knowledge. The large round cupola that was the centre of the building with the walls lined with books seemed to just hold her in its embrace. It was in the small adjoining café by the entrance where Sookie met Amelia Broadway.
Amelia was able to spot a fellow American a mile away and she instantly latched onto Sookie. Glad to be making a new friend, especially considering Eric’s mental absence the past few days, Sookie happily conversed over the mundane.
Amelia was an actual exchange student, unlike the one Sookie/Susanna pretended to be in the presence of strangers, studying at the Stockholm School of Economics just across the park. She mostly rambled about her life in Stockholm, her boyfriend Alcide and her estranged relationship with her father.
Sookie told her a censured and supplemented version of the past events in her recently upturned life. Her cover story was that she was staying with Eric to get away from all the gossipmongers and vultures that had been surrounding her after the messy fallout of her engagement. She needed a break and Eric offered to let her stay with him. Amelia instantly tortured her on her relationship with Eric but Sookie quickly shut it down stating they were really just friends. They exchanged telephone numbers and Sookie promised to go out sometime.
Eric had been cooking elk steak when Sookie returned home later day. She set the table for them both and alleviated Eric’s worry with his choice of meat. Her brother was quite the avid hunter so eating game was not an unusual thing to her. They sat quietly enjoying their meal as Sookie told Eric about meeting Amelia at the library and he actually managed engaged responses.
“My uncle is dead,” he suddenly said out of nowhere making Sookie drop the glass of red wine from her hands.
“Shit, I’m so sorry,” she muttered as she started grabbing at the pieces of glass.
“Be careful,” he warned as he returned from the kitchen with some cloths and a duster and pan.
“Fuck!” she exclaimed as a piece of glass cut into her skin forcing blood to ooze out. He simply gave her an ‘I told you so’ look as he looked over her bleeding finger. He wrapped a clean cloth around it and guided her to the kitchen where he sat her down on the counter.
“The rug…” she protested.
“Is already lost,” he finished for her as he pulled a package of band aids from a kitchen drawer. “It’s replaceable you are not.”
She grumbled a little at his assuage. “It’s just a small cut. I’ll live.”
He finished disinfecting the wound and wrapping the band aid around her finger desisting the bleed. He finished with a small kiss across the injury just like she had for him in the hotel in Ithaca.
“All better,” he announced pleased with his nursing of her. She gave him an amused smile in gratitude of her grandmother’s words of comfort.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” she offered remembering the news that had initiated the series of events that led them to the kitchen.
He simply shrugged unaffected, “Why mourn someone you never knew.”
“That wasn’t the reason you’ve been M.I.A. for the past five days?” she asked her voice now shrill with indignation.
“No,” Eric spoke coolly as he moved his intimidating body between her turned out thighs his hands on the counter’s edge caging her in. She moved her body as far back as physically possible in recoil.
He eased himself back a bit as he noticed her discomfort and let out a sigh as he reached for her uninjured hand. He carefully encouraged her off the counter as he asked her to follow him into his little cave.
Sookie looked at the wall that had previously been bare as he said, “This is what has been occupying me these past few days.”
The wall was strewn with copies of the different medical documents and letters with highlighted sections. Strings were moving back and forth between them. A large concentration of threads were leading back to the picture that had reminded Sookie so much of her brother. The words ‘The American?’ were written in Eric’s distinctive script underneath on a piece of white card.
“The information you gathered for me was,” he took a small breath searching the appropriate term, “extensive. The staff at the care home have been meticulously recording the things she’s been saying and her reactions to them. The psychiatrist on staff has made detailed notes and drawn interesting parallels. The letters are a correspondence from what I think is the American. They are vague and without the other half of the correspondence it is difficult to determine what they are responding to. It’s almost code and none are signed with a full name only an initial.”
“Have you had a breakthrough?” she asked hopefully considering his morning return to the rest of the world.
“Not yet. My suspicions on my grandmother’s involvement are now confirmed and I need to identify this ‘American’. My mother dated an American man named Vance when she was 21 but I do not think it is him. It seems to be someone connected to Halina.”
Sookie nodded in understanding. She carried a sense of relief with the realisation that he hadn’t been retreating from her as she had feared subconsciously. Eric had simply been lost in the haze of Halina’s mind trying to create some semblance of order in it.
“I need to go back to the US to investigate that my uncle’s death was indeed accidental and not related to any of this.” He gestured at walls covered with the evidence of their investigation.
“So we’re leaving again,” she concluded, with a bit of a sigh as she dreaded another set of flights.
“No. You’re staying here it’s safer.”
“What? No. You’ll need my help investigating,” she said pointing at the temple of her head in demonstration of her ability.
“My uncle was found dead while visiting the capital,” Eric explained sitting himself down, “From what I’ve been gathering Compton has been doing some investigations. Most specifically in locating your engagement ring.”
“Shit. I forgot that it was some family heirloom,” she rebuked herself in memory.
“Word around town is it belongs to Lorena and she’s pissed to find it missing.”
For the first time Eric finally understood the expression, green around the gills, as her face seemed to be physically tinting into that specific colour. The betrayal of her trust rushing to the forefront once more. When she returned with the sound of a flushing toilet in the background her face left no doubt that she didn’t want to talk about it. A part of her had left that past behind and she wanted to give it no attention in her new beginnings abroad.
“Are you sure you’ll be able to get the information you need without me?” she tried again intent on returning with him. She sat beside him on the daybed their bodies angled towards each other. His arm immediately wrapped around her as she leaned in a little.
“It’s my home territory, I know how to grease the wheels,” Eric said as he rubbed her back soothingly trying to distract himself from his gutter ridden thoughts whenever he came into contact with the back of her bra as she rested her head on his shoulder. “I’ll be back before you know it,” he offered with a soft kiss to the crown of her head. Had it been safe he would have taken her, but at some point her safety had come above his own. Much to his frustration he couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment when this happened all he knew was that he would miss her constant presence while he was gone.
She hated to admit it but he had become her security blanket to the world, whisking her away from the ill intent of others and bringing her to this safe haven. It wasn’t a fear of being left alone that had her missing the foundations her feet now rested on, it was doubt.
“What aren’t you telling me?” she asked suspiciously finding his flighty eyes with her own determined ones. Eric was usually straight with her, not bothering to placate her insecurities.
“I will be seeking the help of Sophie Anne,” he admitted softly trying to hold on her fleeing body that had been nestled into his. The hurt look on her face gave no room for argument. He was guilty and they both knew it. He tried appeasing her with arguments but Sookie could hardly stand to listen. “She is the goddaughter of the lawyer that set up my grandmother’s secret trust and is executor to my uncle’s estate. She has already agreed to help me.”
She felt betrayed once more and it hurt all the more that it was Eric. That he would seek the help of one of the co-conspirators that had no qualms in aiding Bill and Lorena.
“I’ll see you when you get back then,” she said coolly as she retreated to their once shared bedroom and closed the door on it. The very same door she had left open in invitation every night previous.
A/N: I received a guest review last week that seemed unhappy with the amount of description and that the story seemed to be going nowhere. I feel everyone is entitled to their opinion and in fact it helps me as I am new to this. Yes last week’s chapter in particular was descriptive in marking a transition. To me those are important moments to acknowledge; we’re moving from Sookie’s story into Eric’s. The two main characters aren’t the mirror parallels to their SVM/TB equivalent, it seems impossible in AH universe to me. In my opinion a certain amount of their motivations and character needs to be built up.
This story moves slowly, feeding crumbs before you get to the main chunk. Details are woven through with intent, they are not there to merely fatten up the text. This a suspense/romance story after all, as indicated in the description. The story reveal itself layer by layer. As for it going nowhere, I’m currently writing chapter 35, if that was the case at this point in the story I wouldn’t have gotten that far.
If you had expectations that within a few chapters we’d uncover the mystery behind Eric’s family’s death, to then continue by shooting everyone in a high octane fuelled revenge spree where Eric and Sookie fall madly into bed with each other in the process of knowing each other for minutes, than this isn’t the story for you. We all have our likes and dislikes and that’s fine. I don’t like reading stories written in the present tense it doesn’t mean that others can’t enjoy them.