There was nothing left but ash and embers. Sookie stood statue-like until the last beam fell and burned to coals. She watched without tears, unmoved by the sight before her. The night had taken its toll and her body sagged, leaning into mine, using my strength to stay upright.
I stayed behind her until she turned, wrapping her arms around my waist, and whispered “Take me home.” I looked to the demon lawyer who withdrew his phone from the SUV, calling the airport and readying the plane. There was plenty of time to get her back to Bon Temps and I could stay in her hidey-hole for the day.
“Pam, use the cards to make reservations for everyone at The Skylofts at the MGM Grand. They’ve recently remodeled to include several rooms suitable for the needs of vampires. Everything is on me for this evening. I will see you all back at Fangtasia tomorrow. There are details to dispense with, but tonight I want you all to relax, shop, take your pleasure where you will. Thank you for everything you have done for us,” I said, exhausted, but knowing that the others had earned a night to themselves. “Also please inquire after Barry and the shifters. I am certain they will not want to attend tomorrow evening’s meeting at Fangtasia, but let them know, anything they need will be provided for them.”
“Of course Eric. Sookie, you were incredible during the battles.” Pam came forward and pulled her into a short embrace. She released her quickly and I drew her smaller frame back against me. “If you need me, I’ll be buying Gucci.”
She walked away, eyes glittering in the aftermath of victory, and gathered the rest of the group, arranging their travel back to the strip since there was no reason to return to the anonymous motel from the night before. I ignored them, focusing instead on Sookie who was dead on her feet. I scooped her up, taking to the air and heading towards the airport. She was asleep before I landed, arms around my neck, her head tucked into the crook of my shoulder. The weight of the battles smoothed from her soot smudged face and I reveled in the calm ease at which she lay cradled in my arms. She slept through the flight.
I awoke atop the covers of my bed. I panicked, worrying that the last few hours with Bill and Felipe had been a nightmare, until I realized that Eric was at the foot, gently removing the ruined ballet slippers.
“Hush Lover, you are safe.” His words were soft and kind.
My breath evened out and I held a hand out to him. He was still covered in grime and blood, but his eyes were focused solely on me. He slid across the bed and I was enveloped by the masculine and slightly dry scent of vampire, my vampire. Relaxing into his body I realized that he was here, with me, and there was nothing to take him away again. A tear slipped silently down my cheek and he kissed it away. I glanced at the clock on my nightstand seeing it was close to four.
“You’ll stay?” I asked the fatigue evident in my voice. It had been so long and I didn’t want him to leave, even for an evening.
His smile was slight. “I’m not going anywhere. Now let’s get you settled.”
I could feel his contentment slightly through the reawakened bond and I looked into his eyes. “Maybe a shower before I crawl under the covers,” I asked though my tone hinted at something more. We shared a flare of lust and without words he leaned forward, hands reaching behind me to unzip the tattered dress. My fingers moved down to the frayed edges of his shirt. My palms traced the hard planes of his chest as I shivered removing it and tossing it aside. He reached up tugging the bow loose that held the ties of my dress around my neck, and it fell down draping around my hips.
His fingers traced a line down my neck, following the contours of my collarbone, and around the outside of my breasts. I shivered in response as my movement echoed his, feeling his muscles quiver beneath my touch. I committed each dip and edge to memory, not realizing how much I missed the feel of him. We were inching closer to one another, slowly, savoring each moment as it came, unaware of its passing. His hand cupped the back of my neck and drew me to him, his lips moving down to meet mine softly, and a moan escaped when they met.
“So beautiful,” he murmured in between kisses. His tongue flicked out licking my lips and my mouth parted in response. I moved and pressed my body against his, needing the feel of his skin. His arms wound around me, his hands roaming the curves of my shoulder blades and dipping down to encircle my waist, pulling me into his lap. His lips had moved to the concave space behind my ear, kissing his way around to the hollow at the base of my throat. My hands played with the leather thong still tying his hair back and I loosened it, freeing the blonde strands and entwining my fingers through its length.
Our caresses became more fervent. Breath coming quicker, I threw my head back, arching my body and giving him access to my breasts. His lips kissed their way down, teasing me with little nips, his tongue tasting my skin, and my nails scraped across his back, impatient for more. When his mouth finally encircled one nipple a sigh slipped out, desire pulsating through every inch of my body, as his fangs slid down and around the center, his tongue flicking what his fangs surrounded and sending threads of passion surging downward. My hands played at the belt that held the fabric that hung down, hiding the hard length of him. I whipped it off, ripping the material it held in the process and baring him to my hungry gaze.
He growled and tore his mouth away moving to crush it against mine. My fingers wrapped around him, and I pulled back with a gasp. I bent down, tongue tasting the salt of him that beaded at the tip, and moved my lips to slide down, achingly slow. I enjoyed the smooth feel of cool against the heat that pulsed in my veins. He leaned back, and I gazed up at him as his eyes fluttered closed, his mouth parted.
“Look at me, Lover,” I echoed the words he had once said to me and his eyes opened, pupils black and filled with need. We continued this way, a deep growl rumbling in his chest until he could take no more and he grabbed me, pulling me up, and his mouth ravaging mine. He pressed forward, forcing me to lie before him and proceeded to kiss down the edge of my chin, passed the line of my shoulders, around the curves of my breasts, skimming the valley where my stomach dipped meeting the shadow of my hips. He ripped the tattered dress from my hips and threw it to the floor. By the time his tongue dipped down into the center of me I was overwhelmed. He took his time, stroking my heat, feeding the fire with fingers and tongue alternating sensations, sometimes slow, sometimes quick nips with the sharpened points of his fangs. My body writhed in passion and I screamed out when the pleasure left me stunned and speechless.
“Sookie,” he rumbled out, “the taste of you…hot and heady…you are mine.” His words choked out, and I knew that there would never be another for me. My future entangled with the vampire who inched towards me: a predator and my body his prey.
“Need you, now,” I managed to gasp out and the world shattered as he sheathed himself fully. Our bodies fell into a rhythm, rocking against one another and my muscles remembered. It was like coming home. He picked us up, our bodies still connected and moved us to the shower; pressing my back against the wall while he turned on the water and shifted our bodies under its streaming. My feet on the ledge, my hands reached to grab the metal bar above me, the hard length of him sinking into me and teasing my core. Steam surrounded us and we urged our bodies together, hunger overtaking us.
“Please lover,” he begged as he gazed down to the pulse of my throat, never lessening the feverish rhythm our bodies demanded.
“Yes, oh god yes, I want our bond, I want to feel you inside me, loving me.” And when he bit, I did as well, bringing the copper taste of his blood into me. It warmed me all the way to my toes, feeling his desire mingling with mine breaking the boundaries between us. Our mouths pulled back and crashed into the other, our blood mingling on our lips as our passion crested, the lingering remnants shaking tremors that rippled between us.
My feet found the porcelain beneath them and we stayed locked in an embrace. I pulled back to watch the glistening water pouring down the sharp lines of his sculpted body. My hands touching again what they had missed, finding my favorite part of his body and squeezing, a giggle escaped.
“What lover?” came his deep voice flowing over me.
“I had forgotten how perfect this part of you was. I might just walk around for the next few months with my hand tucked into your back pocket.” I smiled broadly up at him.
A laugh broke out of his chest and he wrapped his arms around me again. “You can keep your hands on any part of me that you like, though there is one portion of my anatomy that might get lonely.” He waggled his eyebrows seductively. “Now come. We still need to clean up.”
Grabbing the soap, I lathered up my hands and proceeded to pay close attention to every edge and crevice, taking my time with certain parts, enjoying the fact that he was back with me. Once every inch of our bodies were clean, we patted each other dry, and he chased me back into the bedroom his heavy weight falling against me on top of the bed. We burrowed beneath the covers and spent the last hour before sunrise relearning the joys of the other until he slipped into the hidey-hole as the first rays broke the horizon. I fell into a deep sleep, happy and sated.
I crawled out of the light tight room at sundown finding Sookie still deep in sleep, on her side, arms tucked up and her hair splayed out behind her. I was incredibly thankful that I hadn’t woken up in Freyda’s compound and that the love of my life lay before me. I lifted the covers and crawled in behind her, kissing the back of her neck. She turned, curling herself into me, her unconscious body craving mine. She was so beautiful and I relished this moment of quiet, there was much to do this evening.
Her eyes flickered open drinking me in and a sleepy smile broke across her face. I threw my long leg over both of hers rubbing my body against her softness. She kissed me and proving that our minds were in sync we joined our bodies again. When we came back up for air I looked at the clock, frowning in the realization that we would have to leave for Fangtasia shortly. I didn’t want to leave the luxury of her bed and neither did she, but we forced ourselves to separate.
I pulled back the covers, wincing at the mound of shredded bloody costume that was the only thing I had to wear, and said so. She smiled sheepishly, bouncing over to her dresser and opening the bottom drawer. From the back of it, she withdrew a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but it wasn’t until she handed them to me that I realized they were mine.
“I…well…I held onto them,” she said, embarrassed. “I couldn’t admit it, even to myself, but I missed you.”
“Is that so…” I remarked, a hint of amusement in my voice.
“Yes. Now, shut up and get dressed.” She huffed and walked back to the dresser to pull out a short flouncy yellow skirt that fell to her knees and a matching shirt, but I caught her admiring me as I pulled the jeans on. I returned the expression of lust that flickered across her features as she smiled at me. I wanted to throw her back down on the bed, fuck the rest of my responsibilities, but I knew better. It had to be done while my allies were still here or else I’d end up running four states and I frowned at the thought.
It didn’t take long before we were in Sookie’s beater of a car heading towards Shreveport and Fangtasia. A fluttering started within me and I realized that I was excited to be heading back to my bar. It had been almost four months since I’d stepped foot inside, but it felt like much longer. Looking at Sookie driving, she insisted I thought chuckling since it was her car, I was happy to have her by my side.
We pulled into the shopping center parking lot and I hesitated.
“Everything okay Eric?” She asked concerned.
“Yes. Yes.” I said quickly. “I just find myself…well happy to be back.”
A sweet smile crossed her features as she leaned across the car to kiss me softly, her hand caressing my face. “I understand. I’m happy to have you back here. Now let’s get in there and figure out what to do with your kingdoms your majesty,” she drawled lightly.
I growled at her. “You know I never wanted to be king.”
“Yup. But we don’t always get what we want, or have you forgotten that?” A frown skimmed across her forehead and I could feel sadness flash through our bond. I knew she was thinking of the last few months and everything that it had cost us. I pulled her into a deep kiss to wipe the memory away, forgetting for a moment everything that awaited us. I leaned back and saw her smile reappear. I returned it as we got out of the car and headed towards the bar I had built.
When I opened the door I was greeted by a bar full of friends and allies. There was even a ‘Welcome Home Eric’ banner fluttering above. Sookie face held a look of amused astonishment, telling me she hadn’t been in on this surprise. Then I saw the smug look on Pam’s face and I knew it was all her doing. She was leaning against the bar, hip cocked, and looking pleased with herself. She prowled over to me, hiding her hands behind her back. Once she reached me she revealed a paper crown, which she placed on my head. Sookie tried to hold in her laughter, but it wasn’t working. I tried to give Pam a look of contempt, but she just laughed harder.
“Welcome home o’ King of mine,” She snickered.
“Pam…” My voice held a note of warning, but I couldn’t keep it up. Truthfully I was so happy to be back that I grabbed her instead and hugged her, knowing how much she hated it. She was getting a bit better, as evidenced by her willingness to hug Sookie, but her body stiffened when I did it, which made me laugh uproariously.
“We knew we had to gather, and though we all had fun last night, which I’m sure you two did as well, but we wanted to celebrate and really welcome you back.”
I moved through the crowd, thanking everyone personally for their role in my rescue. Sookie stayed by my side, accepting her own congratulations, since she had been instrumental in gathering my forces on this side of the state lines. Fangtasia seemed exactly the same and utterly different since I had been here last. When I finally made it through the throng of people I looked up at the stage and smirked, though Sookie hadn’t noticed the change yet, engaged in talking to those that surrounded us. Pam, it seemed, had been busy. I turned Sookie’s body to face the stage and she gasped, whirling around to find Pam whose face adopted a look of feigned innocence.
Next to my throne sat a smaller one decorated with tinsel and glitter. The seat was pink velvet, with silver scrollwork lining the deep mahogany that formed the frame. It was utterly feminine and Pam had a sign made which was hung with pink and white ribbons draping down over the back of the pink seat and read: Property of the Fairy Princess. Sookie glared at Pam with all the fight she had in her, which was quite a bit I admit, but Pam was unfazed.
“Well you are a Fairy Princess and I thought you might enjoy your own throne with which to rule the kingdom by the King’s side.” She wasn’t holding in her mirth very well, almost choking on the words that she pronounced. She zipped behind the bar bringing out a small silver tiara lined with rhinestones that spelled out the word Princess and placed it atop Sookie’s head.
“Take away her shoe collection Eric and her credit cards,” Sookie declared without any real heat.
Pam pretended to swoon and fell to her knees at our feet, begging our forgiveness.
“Get off your knees you shrew, but I will repay you in kind don’t you worry.” Sookie threatened, a sly grin playing over her features.
I took her hand daintily and lead her up the stage, placing her at my right in her newly acquired throne. She giggled, leaning over to kiss me, and I returned it with a scorching passion that brought a flush to her cheeks. I noticed Pam had her phone out and was snapping a photo of us and for once I didn’t mind. I wanted to remember this. We only stayed on the stage for a little while, but then we made our way to my booth, there was actually work to be done despite the fact that this was a celebration.
I had already decided that I would retain the title of regent of Louisiana, not that I really wanted it, but at least neither Sookie nor I would have to relocate. I motioned to Harrison that I would like to speak with him. He ended the conversation he was in and came over. Sookie looked to see if I wanted to her let us speak in private, but I shook my head. No, she was a part of me and therefore should have a say in the decisions I was making. I could feel her happiness and she slipped her hand under the table, placing it on my thigh.
Harrison sat across for us and I eased into the discussion. “First, I would like to say thank you for everything you did for us in Oklahoma. Showing up when you did during the battle kept Freyda from escaping, which would have been, simply put, a nightmare.”
“If you remember, Eric, it wasn’t entirely altruistic. I was avenging the woman I loved.” He glanced at Sookie and gave her a small smile.
“Nonetheless, you freed the shifters and helped me defeat the Queen and for that you have my utmost gratitude. I would like to reward you, though it may not seem like much of a reward initially.” Harrison eyed me carefully and I continued. “I have found myself as regent of four states when I never cared for ruling and I need people I can trust in place. I don’t want to have to worry about being betrayed again. You waited a hundred years to take vengeance on Freyda for the killing of your Eloise and showed great loyalty to the woman you loved in doing so. Would you be willing to show the same loyalty to me and mine?”
“Yes, of course. I have no desire to fight, despite the events of the past few days. I simply want to live in peace.” His face showed no deceit only that he was honest in his aspiration.
“Good, then I would like you to take over the kingdom of Oklahoma. I won’t tolerate any mistreatment of the humans or vampires under your care so consider carefully if you truly wish to take on this role. Since the Great Revelation, some vampires have held onto the old ways, I am not one of those as you can see by the woman seated at my side. If I find that you are showing any of the signs of becoming like Freyda or any of those who still live by the old codes, I won’t hesitate to replace you, but you will have my support and loyalty as long as you remain fair. Know, though, that if you betray me, I will bronze your skull and place it on display for all to see.” I paused to let that sink in before continuing. “Sookie, do you have anything to add to my requests of him?”
She thought for a moment. “Only the same thing that I asked of you when I first agreed to work for you,” I cocked my head and looked at her quizzically, “that if any humans are found culpable in a crime that they are turned over to the human authorities. Vampires still answer under vampire law, but humans should be tried under the laws of this country. I don’t really think that there should be two sets of laws, but one step at a time.”
“We could work towards gaining a true equality between vampires and humans, but it will take time, my love,” I responded proud of the woman who really was my equal.
“Good thing we have plenty of that.” Her face showed the joy that emanated from deep within her.
“Now Harrison, do you think that you could abide by the framework we have outlined?” I asked, sincere in my offer to him, but wanting to ensure that he knew the ground rules.
Harrison contemplated before he spoke. “Well, I’ve never thought to rule anywhere, but I have come to consider Oklahoma my home and I imagine there will be much to rebuild. I would like the chance to do so fairly so that what happened to my Eloise will never repeat itself. There is much work to be done, but if you are willing to lend your support to the cause then I would be happy to take on the task.”
“Good. We will draw up the contracts in the next few days. Please, go back to enjoying the party and know that I am eternally grateful to you.” He nodded to me and slid out of the booth.
I called over Thalia and Palomino, going through the same speech and asking Thalia to take over Arkansas with Palomino as her second. I hated to lose them, but they had shown their loyalty not only to me, but also to Sookie. She had spoken of how they never demeaned her and had been nothing but supportive of the plans she and Pam had come up with. Thalia was harder to convince, being as attracted to ruling as I was, but I explained that I needed people in place that I could trust. In the end they both agreed to the move and I was glad to have such good people on my side. The hard conversation was the one we had to have next. I called Pam and Karin over to the booth.
They settled in, Pam jabbering on about the party and how I had been taken completely by surprise, little did she know what I was about to ask of her. This was something I had already discussed with Sookie and she, though sad, agreed with me.
“Pam. Karin. You are both my children and though I chose you for different reasons, I could not have asked for better progeny. You both have shown loyalty, intelligence, patience, and objectivity in your dealings. What I ask of you now is difficult and yet makes me proud that you have become the two that I trust above any other besides the woman sitting next to me.” I paused. I would hate to lose them, but it was only right that I asked this of my two closest companions. “Pam, I would like you to take over as Queen of Nevada with Karin as your second. You have shown a great aptitude for finances which is definitely needed in that state.”
Karin readily agreed, but Pam hesitated before she spoke. “As honored as I am by your offer Eric, I must decline it.” Karin and Sookie were taken aback thinking that she would have agreed.
“You decline Pam? Why, may I ask?” I was confused; she seemed born to rule. I figured it had only been that I kept her by my side that she hadn’t tried for more power in the past.
“I have no desire to leave you and Sookie Eric,” she explained. “Having lost you once, I will not give you up so easily, and I’ve become quite fond of your little fairy.”
“Not even for a kingdom?” I asked shocked.
“No, not even for a kingdom. Karin deserves it, maybe even more so than me. Besides, who would keep you in line? You might become a big softy ruling next to your fairy princess here.” I laughed inwardly thinking that once Pam knew what Sookie had planned for Bill she might not think that. Sookie may want equality between humans and the supernatural community, but she also wanted vengeance.
“Think of the shopping you could do Pam. The shoes you could buy in Vegas,” Sookie added. Leave it to Sookie to tempt Pam with the one thing that might persuade her.
“True enough, but I imagine Eric would buy me an entire factory full of shoes if I asked him, so my answer is still no. I do not want it, not even for all the shoes in the world. Okay, well maybe then, but still my answer remains the same. No Eric, I do not wish to rule. I will stay here as your second.” Her voice was firm.
That was her answer and it was obvious that I would not be able to change her mind. “Well Karin, what do you think? Would you take over as Queen of Nevada? We’ll have to find you a worthy second, but I have the utmost faith in your abilities.”
“Of course Eric. We have been apart for many years so I am used to living without you, but I would like to make a request, if I may?” She asked and I was stumped as to what her request might be. I waved a hand indicating that she should continue. “I would like to take Win and Ritchie to Nevada with me. You know that I am not as good with people, but they are, though too young to rule on their own. Not to mention they are both vicious, having witnessed them in battle, and I imagine there will be a use for their skills dealing with the shenanigans that go on in Vegas.” She was asking my permission though she really didn’t have to, as regent she could choose anyone she liked as her second.
“Of course. I have known them both and they are loyal and capable, but you’re right, they are young. Are you ready to handle the issues that could arise?”
“Yes. I am quite fond of the both of them, as they are of each other it appears. I would hate to separate young lovers.” I looked over at Win and Ritchie and, sure enough, they were talking quite closely, hands making small touches here and there. The thought warmed me.
“So it appears. If they agree they are yours.” Sookie began running her fingers up and down the inside of my leg under the table, flittering up to toy with the button of my jeans, and I realized that I would need to find us someplace private soon.
Sookie added her voice to the discussion. “Karin, if I may ask one thing?” Karin nodded. “Can you make sure that Win comes and visits often? I find that I really like her and would like the chance to get to know her better.”
Both Pam and Karin erupted in laughter, though I didn’t quite understand. Pam looked and Karin and said, “Told you so. I knew she’d like her.”
“As usual you were absolutely right Pam,” was Karin’s only response.
“Can we go back to the party now Eric? I mean, really. I set all this up for you and you’ve been sitting here working. Boo I say! Come on, lemme get you a blood.” I let Pam pull me and Sookie from the booth. Ritchie and Win had headed over to the sound booth and decided that there should be dancing. Knowing how much Sookie loved to dance I couldn’t argue. Pam and Win quickly rearranged the tables so that there suddenly a makeshift dance floor.
I drew Sookie in, enjoying the proximity of her body to mine and the rest of my allies joined us on the floor. Her hands roamed and I let my mouth trace the curves of her neckline, placing small nibbling kisses on her skin. We danced for a while before we slipped away from the crowd and into my office. We didn’t have long before we would be missed, but the moment the door shut we flung ourselves together. We moved toward the desk and I lifted Sookie, setting her on the edge. Her hands worked to free me from my jeans and, laying her back I worked her skirt up, tearing her panties off and slid into her. Our passion was furious and our need for one another desperate. She clutched at me, driving me further into her, the pace of our bodies demanding. I gave her everything that she wanted and more.