“Don’t let pride be your downfall,” I countered and I saw a modicum of acceptance travel across her eyes. She nodded her head as I admitted, “I let it be mine tonight and there was no prize in my conduct. I’m sorry.”
“Are you sorry for what you did or that I was a witness to it?” she asked my chest. It was the first time I ever sensed true insecurity in her about me. My actions had shattered an image she had built up from the intricacies of my human mind. My fingers nudged her chin towards mine again. I wanted to look her in the eyes when I answered.
“Both,” I said truthfully and conveyed it through every pore of my body. “Officially I owe him no apology but he will have one. I don’t approve of his behaviour around you but my reaction was excessive.”
She nodded with satisfaction before she answered, “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Our heads turned collectively to the ceiling of the night sky once more. After the silence lasted longer than I cared for I asked, “What are you thinking?”
“I think we should have sex.”
“I think we should have sex.”
“Excuse me,” he stammered out in response. There had been many who had propositioned me for sex over the years, spoken and more often unspoken, but never in such a cool business like tone as I had just done. It had always made me feel dirty regardless, as if I were a disposable object. I would have been disgusted by the tactless proposal of it were our roles reversed, Eric seemed merely puzzled, vaguely plagued with hope. My eyes, however, were overflowing with mirth and when he finally recognised it as such he grinned in accordance to our joint play of collusion.
“So I can deny it to you the next time you act like that,” I explained with a taunting smirk.
“You’ve been denying me for weeks now,” he returned not to be outdone. “I’ve gone this long, I can resist your thrall any night my little temptress. You really think that’s going to keep me in line?”
“A girl can hope,” I teased as I moved to straddle his waist trading the view of the night sky for the sparkling mischief in the clear blues of his eyes. “Besides, I own you Eric Northman.”
“Really?” he replied with a satisfied smirk. “How do you suppose that?”
“Mmmm,” I mused out fluttering my lashes as I hung my lips dangerously close to his. “For starters I own everything that once had your name attached to it.”
“True,” he conceded before craning his neck up to steal a kiss pulling me closer as my treacherous body melted into him with his exploratory hands roaming the expanse of my back threatening to reach my hovering behind to grind on down. When I became susceptible to getting lost in the sensation he mercilessly pulled away, only proving he knew how to play this game far better than I ever hoped I could. Gasping for air and the desire to return to those lips had only thrown me off my intent momentarily. Our scores were yet to settle but frustratingly he was already far ahead of me. “But that’s things. Not me,” Eric pointed out quite accurately.
“Well then I seriously overpaid,” I returned as I trailed the tip of my nose along the arch of his neck. The heat of my breath sent visible shivers down his spine to join the tremors of the chuckles he was desperately trying to contain. When my tongue traced the movement in accordance I relished in recognising the weakening of his resolve.
“I hope you kept the receipt then,” he retorted feebly, his earlier arrogance was waning as my caresses continued to test his resistance. I bluntly bit and suckled at the lobe of his ear and I knew I had him at a disadvantage then, as the unmistakeable sound of fangs rushing out with a snick became audible. A delicious grumble reverberated through us both as it came deeply from his chest.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” I whispered into the shell of his ear as we both tried to fight the mutual seduction of the other, now unsure what our endgame was becoming. It was my turn to shiver into him as he stroked the length of my thighs with his fingertips pushing the hem of my dress further up to my waist. “Didn’t you once tell me you would answer ‘yes’ to any of my requests,” I countered.
His hands stilled as he considered his impending defeat. Treachery plagued his features as he remembered how I had pointed out that was the exact problem that would pull us apart. There was a hint of disgust with the appearance of my triumphant grin. It reminded me of a photograph his sister Lovisa had once shown me of him, when they were children surrounded by an overturned board game. She had told me that he never took loss well and I delighted in knowing I was the cause of it now.
I rested my forehead over his staring intently into those loving eyes now filled with nerves as he sought for his last means of escape. “So,” I started with a confidence I rarely possessed with the opposite sex. “Will you be mine?”
“No,” he replied defiantly, full of reminiscence of that petulant child his sister had once described to me.
“No?” I questioned as the impending peak of our stalemate was nearing to either the destruction or the devouring of the other. Though it was clear to us both it would be the latter.
“I’m already yours,” he countered sporting a grin I was all too happy to slap from his face. His words made me refrain from the itching of my palms that would result in domestic violence. “As you have always been mine.”
I wanted to refute his claim but it was a pointless exercise. Others had come and gone in both of our lives and there was no denying we had both stayed true to another despite not knowing a thing, or of a confirmed existence of the other. Ghosts of our pasts had made what lay between us an inevitable. Perhaps it was foolish but even if it was a sinking ship we embarked on it regardless without hesitation.
“Since when?” I asked more out of curiosity, halting the standoff of our play.
“I knew you belonged in my heart the moment I saw you,” Eric returned as his fingers ran through my hair. “It was an unworthy place for someone like you to be.”
The heat between us melted to a warmth worthy of the best embraces. I pressed my lips to his softly cushioning back with a smile. Those thoughts in his head had bound me to him like no other had and I doubted any other would. It was a silly attempt to even consider denying it.
“Still believe that?”
“I wouldn’t be here if I did,” Eric answered as a lightness travelled through him that had always been absent when he was merely a man of my past. “How long have I been yours?”
I bit at the corner of my bottom lip as I prepared to confess the root of my own infatuation of him. “The moment your mind told me I was worth more than you could ever hope to afford,” I confessed. “But you’re truly a richer man now.”
“Does that mean I can buy back my freedom?” he teased pulling us both from the severity of our statements.
“Never,” I returned vehemently stealing the cheek from his satisfaction with my mouth. The kiss deepened as we were content with our mutual victories, however small they may be. He was mine. I was his. It was simple. It was good.
Our hands sought each other’s bodies out for inspection as we came perilously close to making good on the statement that had ignited this conversation. Eric held back before I could, my confusion with the sudden ceasefire was explained when I sensed the now familiar void of Godric approaching.
He arrived beside us quicker than I managed to straighten out my dress or remove the lipstick smudges from Eric’s lips. My embarrassed flush to the cheeks only further enhanced the evidence of red that betrayed our actions. Eric’s face didn’t match mine and when I settled on what it was, apprehension coupled with fear, my switch flipped. Gone was embarrassment and in its place stood defiance towards the weary looking Godric. It didn’t escape his notice and he simply gave a minute nod before apologising for his intrusion. It was perfunctory in its gesture and as much as I respected and enjoyed Godric’s company I had no interest acting like a child with him. Even if he is old as dirt.
I simply shrugged in response as I steadied myself on my feet again, “Next time knock or something,” I informed with a hint of annoyance. “Eric shouldn’t be acting as your personal PA system.”
My tone was harsher than intended, I had yet to hear Godric’s explanation of keeping Eric deliberately in the darkest place his mind could reside but I was far from forgiving now. I simply found it a hard thing to excuse an enduring amnesia. Eric was visibly tense as his maker’s face only betrayed the minutest of expressions. I knew him to be amused and not in a condescending way but Eric lacked the resources to read his own maker as well as I did.
I pulled into his side wrapping my arm tightly round his waist, it was only his unease with the situation that allowed it to occur without hesitation. Visually I was claiming him like I had announced moments ago but in fact I was calming him in a display I felt his maker should take notice of. There was no doubt in my mind that Godric was the best maker a vampire could have but I found it deeply tragic that Eric ended up with a vampire who was as frugal with loving affection as he himself had experienced so little of it in his human days.
“You would make a good mother,” Godric offered with a small smile. Were I not without a better understanding of the ancient vampire who stood in front of me I would have recoiled at the passive aggressive read into the statement. That I would never be one with the man beside me. Before Eric could spiral down into exactly that thought, judging by the minor tremors running down his spine at our apparent standoff, I answered sweetly, “Thank you Godric.”
I had meant it. I took it as the compliment it was intended to be, he was conceding I was the better parent when it came to the emotional side of this existence. I would be the expert when it came to nurturing affection with Eric, who had thankfully calmed down but the tension was yet to be released from his strained muscles despite Godric’s encouraging smile.
“Pam has requested you help out with an interrogation,” Godric finally informed us both though the appeal was only intended for me.
“Give us a few minutes and we’ll join you,” I answered gesturing to our dishevelled appearances, to which Eric sheepishly patted down a few stray hairs. It only made me want to run my fingers through it to get it back to its former tousled state. He wore dishevelled remarkably well.
“Very well,” Godric returned with a smirk before exiting the room with great haste.
“How do you do that?” Eric asked with amazement when it was just the two of us in the room again.
“Do what?” I returned while wiping away the remnants of my lipstick from his mouth with my thumb. He gave the pad a soft kiss when I mindlessly traced the crease between his lips. I regretted the fact there was no lipstick left on my lips to repeat the process all over again.
“Make him smile,” he responded while adjusting the collar of my dress. There was nothing to be done for the wrinkles at my waistline, where the dress had bunched up, but we were hardly attending a fancy dinner anymore.
“He smiles all the time,” I returned with my brows furrowed. “I’m not the cause of it.”
“I can count the number of times he’s smiled on one hand Sookie,” Eric said with a hint of melancholy. “That includes the small smile he carried away just now.”
“He hasn’t had the responsibility for caring for anyone but himself for over two thousand years Eric and he never received much of it himself,” I replied remembering vague discussions we had in the past. “I think he’s scared you’ll run away with his affection. Did he ever tell you why he fostered Pam?”
“No,” he answered softly and I desperately wanted to kiss away the hurt that resided in his eyes. Priorities, however, dictated otherwise. “I didn’t even know my maker had taken her under his wing.”
It shouldn’t have surprised me but it broke my heart nonetheless. Apparently Godric had modelled his relationship to Eric in the exact counter of Kristian and Pam’s. It was smart, rational and fair but it lacked affection where theirs seemed centred exclusively on that. What worried me most was that perhaps in that emotional starvation what Eric sought with me would always leave him seeking. I knew from Pam’s complex relationship to her maker that there was a part of her heart only he could fill, it was simply part of their makeup. The realisation came to me that my exploratory relationship with Eric extended beyond him and I. If I chose to be with him permanently, I couldn’t disregard the contingent of vampires whose bloodline had animated his life from death. I was dating Eric but I would be marrying his entire house in the process. Whether I was a fae or not alliances would always be there.
“Ask him,” I returned when my inner thoughts finally caught onto Eric’s questioning stare. I didn’t feel it my place to share the intricacies of Pam’s most intimate relationships. What I did know, surely only scratched at the surface of it all anyhow. “This is all as new to him as it is to you. He hasn’t figured out quite how to act with you yet.”
He nodded in assent but there still seemed to be a lingering of insecurity that didn’t suit him. It had never been there before when I was still able to read his mind. Of all the riches he had lost in his process of turning this is the one that would leave him truly destitute if it continued to exist. It was also the only thing I would not be able to return to him. Eric remained pensive as his hand held on to mine slightly firmer than I had become accustomed to as we sought out Godric by the main entrance to Pam’s home.
There was little spoken between them overtly but I knew something was happening between them in their bond. The conversation was over before I could interject anything and I found myself wondering how being bound to Eric by blood would impact my independence. I had relinquished my hope for normalcy a long time ago, simplicity had left earlier that evening with my newfound status. The thought of losing myself in the process of connecting to another was, however, a daunting task that would take time to accept.
We followed Godric to a more modern looking utilitarian structure on the outskirts of Pam’s estate. I had never ventured this far, Pam’s despise of the outdoors had always kept us firmly indoors despite the beauty of the grounds. A collection of suspended voids resided inside and one human one. A woman named Staci and from the thoughts of her mind it seemed she’d be the type to dot that ‘i’ with a heart.
“What do you think Staci can tell you?” I asked of Godric who smiled appreciatively at my telepathically procured knowledge. Instead of taking in his smile I focused on the reaction it evoked in Eric. He wasn’t lying that it was a rare sight to him as shock marred his face. As much as I hated it when people told me to smile more I was determined to do exactly that whenever the two of them were in my presence.
I recognised Shahbaz as he let us into the building, the chambers that housed the voids that I had recognised earlier were firmly closed. I didn’t know what to expect from Pam’s private stable of holding cells but it looked decidedly nicer and high tech than any human jail. One overnight visit was thankfully enough for Jason to clean up his act, otherwise I would never have known the poor conditions of such.
Shahbaz couldn’t hide the curiosity of my presence in a building that I was sure hardly ever saw the presence of any being with a beating heart. Certainly not in my capacity. I knew the Guard of Anûšiya suspected there was more to me considering the respect Pam had always bestowed on me but it was clear that he had yet to pinpoint exactly what.
My stomach churned at the sight at the end of the hall. Human jail was suddenly looking decidedly more preferable as we passed a previously pristine white space splattered in remnants of oxidized blood. In the middle of the room sat a completely undisturbed Sophie Anne Leclerq filing away at her nails looking like the exact colour scheme of the room with her milky skin set in a pristinely white flapper dress untouched by a single speck of blood, the only sign of red being the long locks of her hair and her carefully painted lips. She seemed to be content with listening to the vague soundtrack of torturous screams emanating from the room next to her as orchestrated by her child.
We passed an identical looking chamber, blood included, before we reached the room holding Staci. Unlike the other interrogation cells this one could pass for a staff room with the small kitchenette and a warm decor. Staci was seated unaware as we observed her through the two-way mirror. I recognised the multiple sets of glamour fogging her brain as she was held in the trappings of her own mind.
“She doesn’t look like a pet,” Shahbaz informed us. It was an observation that would only be of interest to a vampire. He was accurate in the sense that Staci looked healthy, lacking the usual fang marks marring her youthful skin. She looked like a lost sorority girl, and though there were plenty of those hanging of the arms of a vampire in a period of experimentation, yet she seemed too wholesome to be that explorative with herself. “The girl has been with their nest for months but they do not feed from her.”
“Are they feeding her?” I asked wondering if that would explain her healthy buoyant looks. I thought the simplicity of her mind was just her natural state but it could well be induced by a steady feeding of influencing vampire blood. In that sense it wasn’t unlike any man-made drug.
“Not that we can discern. Northman,” Shahbaz commanded, “your nose is more sensitive than any on the premises. What do you say?”
“She has been fed once,” Eric returned with a focus and skill I was unware he possessed. “Long ago, it smells of your neighbour. She takes herbal supplements, other than that her scent carries nothing unusual.”
“Is she…” I trailed off unsure how to ask such a delicate question that would only be viewed as such by me, “untouched?” By all appearances that was exactly what she looked like. Vampires, especially the Impurus, had a taste for the innocent but it was unusual to keep it around in pristine condition.
The three vampires in the room answered a resolute yes as if it wasn’t a completely obscure piece of knowledge they possessed about every woman they ever interacted with. “She’s not in her mind,” I observed. “She’s reliving months of courtship with Bill Compton. It doesn’t feel like glamour.”
I didn’t bother asking what their attempts at glamour had procured from her mind, I wouldn’t be standing there if that had been a fruitless exercise.
“She is of sound mind?” Godric asked while Shahbaz continued to eye me curiously putting together the pieces of information he knew about me. I nodded that she was in return.
“I’m a telepath,” I informed off handed in Shahbaz’s direction to confirm his suspicions. I assumed he was trustworthy and had enough on his mind already. There was a hint of surprise hidden in his features but it was mostly an acceptance of a proven theory.
“Will you be able to release her from it?” Godric queried as I continued to assess the strange workings of her mind.
“I’m not sure,” I confessed. I had never come across a mental signature quite like it. I had removed it on some of Pam’s staff before, unfortunately it was always the result of a bad cover up. Pam offered them a choice whether they wanted to remain unaware or not. There had only ever been one brave soul that chose to retain the memories of her trauma.
“Glamour always attaches itself to the subconscious so it remains unnoticed,” I explained. “This is woven into her consciousness, like a rhizomatic root structure, there is no other choice for her but to believe it. But it’s so obviously there.”
“Maybe she wants to believe it,” Shahbaz offered as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Despite his obvious qualities as a commanding soldier it became obvious to me he was the type of man that dealt unwell with uncertainties and the unknown. He lived by the knowledge of facts. “How do you wish to proceed?”
“I will need to talk to her, to understand what has taken root in her mind,” I returned after some contemplation. “But she’s frightened, I need to gain her trust. I don’t think I’ll be able to coax it out of her otherwise. Perhaps showing her Bill Compton is safe and sound will allow her to open up to me.”
“That won’t be possible,” Shahbaz said shortly. I noticed Eric’s irritation at the mere mention of the name and before it could fester any further I reached out for his hand softening his face to me in the process. It was a strange realisation that in Staci’s mind it was the same look Bill gazed onto her adoringly. Thankfully I knew for certain that what Eric held for me was true. It was a look he had carried for me from the moment we met before either of us had brushed up against anything supernatural.
“Come with me,” I requested of Eric as we collectively ignored the rest of the room in the tender looks we held for each other. “Pretend we just had mad passionate romantic sex.”
“Do we really have to pretend?” he leered with that annoying quirked brow that could only reduce me to giggles. Instead of admonishing the crass nature of his statement I forced his gaze to Godric.
“Look,” I said encouragingly. “You made Godric smile.”
A/N: Next week we’ll be hearing from Eric again as we start to investigate Bill… because obviously the shithead is involved somehow….
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