“Did he just crook his fucking finger at me?” All the warmth Sookie’d been feeling in regards to the Viking whooshed out of her. “Did I morph into a toy poodle while my head was turned?”
“Oh, this is gonna be good,” Jason joked, always ready to watch his sister verbally decimate anyone who underestimated her.
Tara looked uneasy. “Sookie, maybe you should just leave it alone. I mean I get it, that’s some sexist shit if I ever saw it, but he’s a vampire. That’s just how they are. You of all people should know that.”
Sookie stood and Tara reached out to keep her from leaving the booth. Sam shook his head, sipping his beer.
She turned to face Tara wishing she could confide in her about Niall’s half-assed plan. “No, some things need to be addressed. They just do. What’s he gonna do to me? We’re in public.”
“Yes, but…” Tara paused and then sighed. “No, you’re right. I know you are. It’s just, well, I’m not worried about what happens when you’re in public, Sookie, more about what happens afterwards.”
Sookie smiled sadly at her friend. She often wondered if she’d chosen poorly when she said yes to Niall. But if she couldn’t handle one vampire, how would she ever change anything else? Start small: today Sheriff of Area Five, tomorrow society. A nervous chuckle escaped under her breath.
“I have to do this, Tara, you know I do. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.” Deep breaths.
Sam made eye contact. “We get it, Sookie. Go on, we’ve got your back. We’ll be right here if you need us.”
She nodded and exited the booth, crossing the room to confront Eric Northman. She’d never admit it out loud, but terror plagued her every step. A vampire could turn deadly in the blink of an eye—literally. She stiffened her back as she approached the stage. She still felt the same draw to the man, but she tempered it with a huge dose of outrage.
Eric spoke before she even stopped moving. “Princess Brigant of the Royal Fae Court of Amun.” He rolled his hand in a graceful mock bow. “To what do I owe the honor of your slumming it down here with the plebes?”
Sookie felt her mouth drop open, not only for the fact that he somehow knew her, but mostly for the classist crap he spewed. “Goodness gracious, you really are an asshole aren’t you?”
Eric’s body went rigid except for the crackling ice in his blue eyes, which inched over her entire frame before he spoke. “Absolutely. An asshole for good reason I assure you.”
The nerve of that insufferable man. “Let’s get a few things straight. First, keep your eyes on my face. My boobs are not speaking to you. Secondly, I am not a dog and you will not treat me as such. If you want to speak to me, you can come down off that tacky throne and use your words.” Eric eased himself back in the throne, crossing his arms, evidently amused by her. Sookie waved her arm around the bar, “Thirdly, these people are not plebeians, Sheriff High and Mighty. They are hardworking people who deserve your respect.”
She cocked her hip to the side and tapped her foot waiting for his response. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? He uncrossed his arms, placing them on the sides of the throne, and leaned forward.
“It would be wise for you to remember your place, Princess,” he lowered his voice to an intimidating growl. “Is your uncle aware of where you spend your evenings?”
“My place? Awww, hells to the no. You aren’t turning this around on me. Where I spend my time is none of your business.” Sookie and her uncle had an understanding, albeit an unspoken one, but she realized to concede anything to the vampire before her, even a little bit, wouldn’t end well for her. “How you treat your constituents is far more concerning to him than me hanging out with my brother and best friends. I wonder if my uncle would like to hear the way you really feel about the people who look to you for leadership.”
The vampires and fae might believe the humans incapable of ruling themselves, but they didn’t tolerate treating them as such. Both courts realized that to stay in power they needed to ensure the human’s happiness.
“Did you just threaten me?” Eric’s jaw dropped.
Sookie smirked at him. “Why yes, yes I did. What, you didn’t realize women actually had opinions or brains of their own?” The blonde vampire behind him erupted into laughter.
“Oh that is priceless. Eric did you hear that? She thinks—” She couldn’t even finish her sentence she was laughing so hard.
“I am well aware, Pam. Our Princess here knows nothing, does she?” His eyes narrowed.
The hilarity dropped off of Pam’s face. She leaned against Eric’s throne, staring at Sookie. “No, she really doesn’t. Most importantly, she doesn’t know me, now does she?”
“Stop calling me Princess, Eric, I hate it. And I apologize if I insulted you, Pam. But even you must admit, he’s not making the best first impression.” Pam shrugged in not quite agreement. The genteel southerner in Sookie rose to the occasion; she simply couldn’t be rude to the woman, especially given that what Pam said was true. She really didn’t know her. “I’m Sookie, it’s nice to meet you.”
Pam continued to stare, but Eric responded to Sookie. “There seem to be a great many things I cannot change about our society, but just because the rules exist does not mean I espouse any kind of agreement to them.”
Well, this was an unexpected development. Didn’t mean she was letting him off the hook though. “You coulda fooled me with your come hither finger. Has no one ever informed you of how condescending that is?”
He raised a single eyebrow in her direction. “No, I’ve never had complaints about my fingers before,” he replied dryly. “But I will allow that besides Pam, I’ve never met a woman unafraid to speak her mind to me. I’m not a man women say no to, Sookie.” He stretched his leather-clad legs out in front of him, knowing exactly how mouth-watering he looked.
Her name flowed indecently off his tongue and she found herself once again mesmerized by the man before her. She swallowed, trying to remember what she’d been about to say before he laid himself out before her like an all you can eat gourmet buffet. Focus, Sookie. Focus! Her train of thought kept derailing into the gutter.
The part of her brain that still functioned drove the train into the station. “I don’t imagine they do, Sheriff Northman.” Sookie thought it much safer to revert to titles.
“I much prefer when you call me Eric.” He rose, towering over her. I’d much prefer to have you between my thighs right now, Sookie thought, but did not say. He held his hand out for her to take. “I believe we got off on the wrong foot. Let me amend that now.”
She placed her hand in his, a shock of electricity zipping through the contact. Eric’s fingers tightened around hers, and a flicker of surprise skittered across his features. He said nothing, but simply raised her hand and brought it to his lips. Fucking swoon. “Well, this is true, Eric. What do you propose?”
“I propose,” he began, naughtiness lingering in his eyes, “That I accompany you to the bar for a drink. Let’s consider it the beginning of an apology for my boorish behavior.”
Sookie indicated over her shoulder, “I did come with friends. I can’t just ignore them.”
Before she could blink, vampires burst into action, adding a table to the booth where Jason, Tara, and Sam waited, matching looks of astonishment on their faces. Eric began leading her over there, never once taking his hand from hers. The electricity she’d initially felt raced between them with the unbroken contact.
“I’d very much like to meet your friends,” Eric replied as they moved to join up with the group.
This whole situation could implode at any second, but for some unknown freaking reason, Sookie didn’t want Eric to leave, no matter how arrogant and frustrating she found him.
They stopped in front of the booth. “Sheriff Northman, this is my brother Deputy Jason Stackhouse, he works at the Bon Temps police department.” She turned to Sam and Tara. “This is Sam Merlotte, owner of Merlotte’s where I used to work. And Tara Thornton, my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since kindergarten.”
He nodded to each of them in turn. “I am pleased to meet you all.” He faced Pam, who’d slipped into the booth to sit next to Jason. “This is my second in command, Pamela Ravenscroft.”
He pulled out a chair for Sookie and then scooted his closer to hers, joining their hands under the table. Why was she letting him hold her hand? The same waitress from earlier returned with a round of drinks for everyone. They chatted amiably about nothing of importance. Pam flirted with Jason, while Sam and Tara shared looks of surprise at the strange turn their night had taken. While she tried to focus on the conversation going on around her, Eric traced his thumb in circles around her palm, driving her libido absolutely batshit crazy.
Through it all, Jason and Sam eyed Eric with suspicion. And then, true to his nature, Jason opened his mouth without thinking. “So what exactly are your intentions towards my sister, Eric? Don’t think I haven’t caught you staring.”
Trust her big brother to play the honor card without even discussing it with her—not that she’d ever give him permission to play the great big male protector.
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Jason. Eric, excuse my brother, he tends to spit out the first thought that pops into his head.”
Eric froze in place, directing a look at her brother that promised evisceration, whether verbal or physical, Sookie was unsure.
“Though I’m fairly certain your sister can speak for herself, I will respond to your question.” A slow smile spread across his face, which did nothing to alleviate the danger seeping from him. “I intend to fuck your sister senseless and ruin her for any other man.”
She ripped her hand from his. “Fuck what, Eric Northman?” Sookie exclaimed. His statement really wasn’t funny given the society they existed in. Granted, neither her brother nor her friends knew about that aspect of her life, but still. Eric took a huge risk joking about something like that.
Jason, eager to defend her, jumped out of his seat, almost knocking over his beer. Sookie interrupted his misguided intentions. “You sit right back down, Jason Stackhouse. I am utterly capable of taking care of this situation myself.” She turned her glare on Eric. “And you! Stop testing my brother, that’s all you’re doing and I don’t appreciate it. I thought we were past the macho patriarchal bullshit. Not to mention, I have no intention of falling into bed with you.”
“So you think.” Eric laced his fingers behind his head, looking mighty pleased.
“So I know, Dick Munch.” Sookie stifled the laugh that threatened to surface when Pam mouthed the phrase Dick Munch to Eric. Ridiculous phrases aside, these two men needed to just shut it. “Both of you behave yourselves. I have no problem leaving right now if I have to combat anymore of your nonsense.”
“My apologies, Princess,” Eric responded at the same time Jason sulked out a “Sorry, sis.”
Eric leaned down to whisper in her ear. “But I really wasn’t kidding. I do want to fuck the living daylights out of you so that you want no one but me.”
She returned the favor, leaning in close enough that her lips graced his earlobe, “Why? So you could watch as two misogynistic courts come together to stone me all for fear of one pesky vagina?”
Pam watched the entire thing play out as if she sat in a movie theater and the only thing missing was the popcorn.
Eric leveled her with an intense gaze. “One,” he traced his index finger down the inside of her arm from the crook of her elbow to the inside of her wrist, drawing light swirls that burned in response to his touch. “Anyone who tried to harm one hair on your delicious body would lose the arm before they threw the first stone.”
His finger moved to her palm, skimming across the surface. He leaned forward reaching with the other hand to tuck an errant strand of hair behind her ear and whispered, “Two, when you slip between your sheets tonight, before you fall asleep, you’ll reach down and touch yourself, remembering how I felt between your thighs.”
Sookie was having trouble breathing as he nibbled down the length of her jaw. His lips hovered centimeters away from hers as he finished, “Three, you don’t know it yet, but you are mine.”
His lips closed the distance and every shock of electricity she’d felt before exploded between them. Never in her life had she been kissed like this. She only needed three fingers to count the number of men who had kissed her in the past, but she knew this kiss would haunt her. She would measure every pair of lips to the intoxication she felt as his mouth opened and his tongue swept over hers. Every nerve ending flared to life and she wound her fingers into his blond hair, pulling him closer to her. She lost herself in the sensation.
Finally, his last words to her truly sank in. You are mine. A long-buried instinct leftover from prehistoric times surged with joy at his pronouncement, but the modern day woman did the only thing she could. She pulled away from that world-altering kiss, took a deep breath, grabbed her purse, and stood, a little unsteadily, but of her own volition.
“Guys, it’s been great, but I need to be going now.” She glanced over her friends to see nods of agreement. This whole night had gotten out of hand quickly, and she needed to separate herself from the temptation Eric Northman provided. Pam appeared smug, while Eric stared at her in confusion.
Tara spoke up first. “Are you okay to get home?”
Sookie glimpsed down at the drink in front of her. She’d barely touched it. “Yeah, I’m good, no worries. I’ll call you when I get home, m’kay?” She stepped farther away from Eric.
“I’ll walk you out.” Jason made to stand and Sookie waved off his concern.
“I’m fine, Jas, really. We’ll get together again soon.” She walked around and kissed her brother on the cheek. “Pam, it was nice meeting you.”
She ignored Eric except to issue him a curt goodbye, and then she turned on her heel and fled. She knew it was probably childish, but she didn’t know how to handle the situation with him. She found him high-handed, conceited, and exasperating, despite showing glimpses of a being a decent man. She couldn’t explain it, but her body responded to him. She definitely needed to put distance between the two of them.
She pushed through the front door, taking in gulps of the clean night air. It soothed her. She neared her car and stared up into the sky full of stars. Eric Northman was the worst kind of danger. She’d practically crawled into his lap when he kissed her and her sane mind barely registered his whispered claim upon her. Sookie reached down and rubbed her left wrist, still tingling.
Lost in thought, she didn’t hear Eric approach.
“Princess…” Her head drooped forward.
“Eric,” she said, her voice soft, “I just can’t right now. I am not a princess, and I will not be your conquest. There is nothing to win here. Please, go find someone else to seduce. I’m sure there are plenty of willing partners.”
“I don’t want anyone else.” A sincere tone laced his words, but what did she know, she’d only just met the man.
“Who even says that to someone they just met? Do you know how ridiculous you sound?” She whirled on him, her temper flaring. “Look, I get it, you’re hot. You’ve probably ruined plenty of women in your time. I won’t be one of them. Just leave. Please…”
He stepped towards her, but she held up her hand to stop him.
“I’m sorry I kissed you, Sookie, well not sorry—I needed to know if what I felt—oh gods, I’m making a mess of this.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “Just look at your wrist, Sookie, please,” Eric pleaded. His tone, so different from the commanding Eric he’d been when they met, gave her pause.
She pulled back her hand, turning it over to discover an iridescent silver mark. She twisted her wrist to catch the overhead light.
“It’s the infinity symbol,” he stretched out his arm to show her an identical figure inscribed on his skin. “It is the Sign of Síorghrá. We are Mates.”
It couldn’t be, could it? “This must be a joke.” She licked her thumb, rubbing it over the mark.
A twitch of a smile greeted her when she looked back at the vampire standing in front of her. “I’ve seen the symbol on others, though both our communities thought we’d lost the ability to find our Mates when surrounded by the modern world. I’d given up hope of finding mine hundreds of years ago.”
“You can’t be serious?” Sookie blinked up at him, searching his face for some sign that this was all some big colossal joke. “You? You’re my mate? I can barely stand you. Sure, your kiss could burn a house down, but surely the universe wouldn’t saddle the two of us together.”
A flicker of hurt flashed across his face. “Why? Because you’re an intolerable feminist—”
She didn’t let him go any further. “Because you’re an impossibly egotistical asshole who takes what he wants without thought for the consequences.”
He surged forward and his hands landed on either side of her as she pressed her body back against the car. “Oh I’ve thought about the consequences and they all end with you as my first, last, and only wife.”
He eliminated the space between them, his body completing a path to hers. “Whatever you believe, I have never ruined a woman. My only lovers in the past three hundred years have been human. I remember the time before the courts concerned themselves with the private lives of the supernatural community. I remember when women were free to take partners as they wished. I have waited a very long time for you, but I have never forced a woman against her will. Tell me you don’t want me. Tell me right now and I will walk away. ”
Her entire body rebelled against her rational mind. This could be her one chance, the loophole she secretly desired. Silently she could admit that their verbal sparring had turned her on just as much as feeling the hard length of him held captive by his leather pants. Something inside him called to her, never mind the fact that they’d just met. She wanted more; she couldn’t deny it. She wanted to give herself to this man and wanted to take him in return. An image of her riding his naked body overcame her and she made her choice. She began to move against him.
His lips crashed into hers. His kiss earlier had been a tease, a promise of the heat that erupted through her as he plundered her mouth. She wrapped her leg around him, welcoming him between her thighs. He grabbed her and lifted her the rest of the way, their bodies meeting in the middle. She pulled her lips away, gasping for air and he moved his focus to the valley of her throat, sucking, licking, and biting as she moaned into the darkness. Her fingers dragged his t-shirt from the waistband of his pants, needing to feel his skin. Her nails scraped down his back and he growled into her neck. She felt his fangs lengthen and slide down the line of her vein, a delectable promise.
Eric inhaled deeply, despite the fact that he had no need of breath, and stilled. “Not here. I won’t have my first time with my Mate be somewhere anyone could walk up on us.”
His cock throbbed against her center as she gathered her thoughts. She was far past caring where they were when they came together, but he was right, her quickly dimming common sense agreed.
She unwrapped her legs and slid down his body, reveling in the sensation. “Get in the car. I know a place.”
He didn’t argue. By the time they arrived at her grandmother’s house, they were both ready to explode.
The moment she stopped the car, he pulled her from her seat, picking up where they’d left off in Fangtasia’s parking lot. Her legs around him once again, and he vamped to the door. He set her down and spun her around, one hand following the line of her breast, the other tracing just under the top of her jeans. She fumbled with her keys fighting the rising emotions set loose inside her.
Finally, she unlocked the door and they tumbled through it, Eric kicking it closed behind him. She ripped his t-shirt over his head, running her fingers down his chiseled chest. He returned the favor and his fingers found the lacy edge of her bra. Rubbing his thumbs over her nipples, the gentle scraping of the fabric sent a bolt of warmth thrumming through her. His mouth moved to replace his fingers and her hands tangled in his hair.
Five years of doubt surfaced, “Eric,” she gasped for air. He raised his head to look up at her, as his tongue stroked against her skin. “Stop a moment, please.”
Eric straightened himself, adjusting her bra so her breasts were covered. “Of course, what’s the matter, Sookie?”
“I don’t want to die. I want you so badly my legs are jelly, but what if I misread the laws? If I misunderstood?” Her eyes turned downward, she couldn’t look at him. How could she have let it get this far? What if she was wrong?
A tender look suffused his face and he pushed her hair back. He kissed her cheeks. “Look at me, Sookie,” he said, his voice kind. She brought her gaze to him. “I know the law. We are Mates, and they cannot touch you without my consent. And I will never allow harm to come to you. But I want you to choose this, to choose me of your own free will.”
He waited patiently for her to sort through her thoughts. She remembered reading the law and knowing what he said was true, but, “How do I know they won’t change their minds? If there hasn’t been a Mated pair in hundreds of years—the way they treat women—I’m so confused.”
He picked her up and carried her over to the old worn brown sofa. “The supernatural community thrives on its adherence to its laws. They’ve stood since the early 17th century and no one has been able to challenge them, for good or for ill. You have nothing to fear, but I understand your trepidation. As I said, nothing needs to happen tonight. It will change nothing. You are my Mate and I will not allow them to take me from you. If they try anything, I will burn down every palace in my way to reach you. And then we will challenge them together. Side by side.”
Now that she could think straight again, she knew that he was right. She read all those laws, and learned the history of both communities from her uncle. More than that, she felt a mystical connection tying her to Eric, one that told her he was not lying. Her virginity had never overly concerned her, but she wanted him to be her first.
She answered by reaching up to unclasp her bra. His eyes widened, but he hesitated. She reached down and took his hand. “Touch me, Eric. I want you. Tonight, let me be yours, and let me claim you as mine.”
She still had no desire to marry, but she couldn’t fight the magnetism she felt to this man. She reached down unbuttoning his leather pants and he rose so that she could peel them off of him. He stood nude before her and her fingers wrapped around him, drawing a moan out of him. She felt clumsy, but his reaction gave her confidence. She yearned to taste him and slid his length into her mouth, steel and silk traced by her tongue, his hands grasping her head, encouraging her until he could take no more. His pulled her gently to her feet and slowly undid the snap of her jeans. As he removed them, his hands traced every inch of her skin as it was revealed. She was left standing in only her pink satin panties. His eyes devoured her before he knelt, taking the scalloped edge of the remaining barrier in his teeth and inching them down. He never took his eyes from hers as he licked the line of her, drinking in the taste of her. The sensation left her trembling.
She held out her hand, feeling sexy and powerful as she led him to her old bedroom. He kissed her, following her body as they tumbled together onto the bed. One finger moved inside her as she encircled his erection, loving the hard length of him in her hand.
“Eric, I need you, now. I can’t wait anymore.” Sookie’s heart raced, the passion inside her a heady rush through her veins.
He slowed his movements, catching her eyes. “Are you sure? It will hurt, but only for a minute.”
She stilled having forgotten about the lack of any proof of her virginity. “Actually, it won’t. I had an accident when I was a child—”
She would have continued, but he stopped her words with his mouth.
In between kisses, he reassured her, “I would not have cared even if you weren’t a virgin, but I am glad that I am the man who gets to share this experience with you.”
The tip of him pressed against her, begging entrance. She widened her legs; her hands clenching his perfectly formed ass, urging him forward. Slowly, he sank into her, and she cried out in wild abandon. Neither of them moved the moment he was finally seated deep inside her, the feeling exquisite.
“Oh gods, this was worth every long year of waiting to find you.” They began to move at the same time, unable to hold back any longer. He pulled out and inched forward, repeatedly. Their movements controlled at first, but becoming a frantic coupling. She’d never felt safer, more at home, than she did with him filling her. With every thrust, their connection grew stronger. They hadn’t bothered to turn on the lamp, but two lights began to pulsate, dancing against the walls.
They noticed it together and Eric’s eyes widened in wonder. They both glowed, hers a golden color that mimicked the sun, his filled with the color of the full moon. They both watched as their energies twined together until the two became one. They never slowed their bodies, and the mingled light grew brighter as their neared their climax. As their pleasure broke free of their bodies, Sookie felt a lock click into place between them. They lay panting as the light surrounding them dimmed, retreating within them. Strands of gold seeping into his body, bright white moonlight settling into hers, and in the eyes of the universe, they were well and truly joined.
They made love again that night, but eventually the threatening sunrise forced them back to their respective homes. As she settled into bed, in the moments before the inhabitants of the court rose for the day, she had no idea what the future held. But as he had promised earlier in the evening, before her eyes closed in contented exhaustion, she reached down and touched herself, remembering the unforgettable feeling of having him inside her.