Sookie took Eric's proffered hand and stepped beside him to see the telescope. Now that it wasn't encased in protective foam and was assembled, she could tell it was probably much more expensive than she had initially thought. Looking up at him, she scowled. "This cost a lot, didn't it?"
Eric shook his head and laughed, "I'm surprised at you, Sookie! Don't you know it's rude to ask how much a gift costs?"
Her mouth dropping open in shock for a moment, she rose to the bait. "You have no room to speak to me about manners. You only use them when it gets you something. I use them because I care about being courteous … and answer the question!"
"It cost more than you would have paid," he said easily. "And that's all I'll say on the matter. Now, would you like me to show you how to work it?"
Sookie nodded. She had to let it go.
'Eric is so enjoying being a mule and I will just—oh!'
She gasped as Eric slid an arm around her waist and pulled her in front of him. Tightly. She could feel his long body pressed against her back. His larger frame enveloped hers and she felt a rising tide of mixed emotions as she felt both vulnerable to him and sheltered by him all at once. She hated the convulsive physical pleasure being this close to him always gave her, but felt it all the same. His arms came around her to indicate the keypad of the telescope and she watched his long fingers depress several keys. This was no dial operated mechanism. It was computer operated and could see farther than anything one could buy in the store.
"This is a very advanced telescope, you don't even have to search for constellations. It has an auto align feature and knows the sky already. As soon as you turn it on, it immediately scans the sky and pinpoints two alignment stars to focus in your viewfinder. After that, you can navigate to any set of constellations you like,” he instructed, moving impossibly closer to her. She was mesmerized by his fingers or was it the heat that had claimed every corner of her body until she felt liquid and weak?
“You can either type in the exact coordinates of the star, constellation, planet or other celestial object you are looking for, or you can select the one you want to look at from the controller. It has hot keys for 145,000 known space objects. You can update this database by going to the Maede website. There is a datachip here that you can insert into your laptop to upgrade, and I'll show you how to do that later. Your star was logged and I made sure your current software was updated with the information. So all you have to do is type in the name "Sookie's Star" and the telescope will shift to find it and automatically zoom in for optimal viewing."
He had stopped talking and she tore out of her reverie knowing a comment was needed. "Wow. You sure know a lot about this."
Nuzzling her hair, he murmured, "The stars are a beautiful thing. Even when I was human, I admired them—all my people did. The stars are a passion of mine and I wish to share it with you."
"Vikings liked star gazing?"
"Indeed. The Norse thought highly of the stars, and they were our guides. Without them, we would not have been able to navigate the sea to go a-Viking."
She crinkled her brow in confusion. "'A-Viking?' What does that mean?"
"We did not call ourselves Vikings as we are referred to now. We called ourselves Northmen … well, Norsemen. When we left our homes and villages in spring and summer to raid, war, and more often than we're given credit for, trade or explore, it was called 'a-Viking'. The correct term was "Fara i Viking" which means "to go on an expedition". History portrays us as murderers, rapists and thieves, but, first and foremost, we were explorers. We discovered America for Europe nearly 500 years before Columbus did, and he only made it to the Bahamas. We actually landed around Newfoundland in what is Canada today."
"So am I insulting you by calling you a Viking? I didn't mean to, if I did. I'll stop."
Shaking his head, he leaned down, his tenor voice a rumble in her ear. "Do not. I take pride in being called a Viking. While today's people do not have their facts straight, they do associate the term with mighty and fearsome warriors. I enjoy you referring to me in such a way. None of my people would be offended by the title. Amused at its misuse, but not offended."
She was doing her best to ignore the shudders of pleasure racing down her spine at his lips brushing the soft shell of her ear but her pulse was racing and she bit back a moan, smiling in spite of herself. "So you guys weren't all as bad as the movies and history makes you out to be? You didn't go raiding into villages to rape and abduct women?"
"Not quite. Few of our men actually raped, and those that did were looked down upon. My people considered sexuality a sacred thing, and not something to be abused. We did abduct women, but we rarely forced them into our beds. We made them servants and eventually they came to us of their own free will … they could not resist our charm."
She could feel his words soft against her hair. She giggled, "I actually don't find that hard to believe—in your case, anyway. So you guys weren't as mean as people make you out to be? You didn't go around killing everyone?"
He shook his head. "Oh we killed many and warred often, but usually with neighboring clans or hostile enemies. When we went raiding, as we're famed for, we actually rarely engaged in battles."
"How come? That doesn't make sense."
"You are aware we sailed in long boats, correct?" When she nodded, he continued, "We called them dragon ships. Most of the villages we raided were located on shorelines. Our ships were fearsome looking and when people saw us coming, saw us standing on the sides in our armor, saw the dragon carvings … well, most of them ran."
Shocked, Sookie asked, "They didn't fight to defend their homes?"
"Most did not. Most people in and around Europe, which is where we did most of our exploring and raiding, were small in stature. While I am larger than most of my people were, it is only by a few inches. The Norse were a large and sturdy breed, and many Scandinavians are to this day. Physically, we were imposing figures and few would stand against us as the odds were just not in their favor. They were wise to run. We only took the most expensive things, and their food and homes were generally left untouched. It was better for them to run and live on after we'd gone, than to stand and fight only to die over jewelry, cloth, precious stones or coin that could be replaced. This way we could raid settlements more than once if we chose."
Sookie leaned back into his chest to cast a look over her shoulder at him. "You've never done this before."
Meeting her gaze, he asked, "Done what?"
"Spoke of your life before you were turned. Bill told me you were a Viking, but you, yourself, have never mentioned your human life."
Eric was quiet as he turned his eyes from her and looked up at the stars.
'I've never seen him like this. He looks … sad almost.'
He was quiet so long that she was sure she'd made some kind of breech of protocol in human-vampire conversations and was about to apologize when he spoke.
Still staring up at the stars, Eric's voice was distant. "No one has ever asked me of my life before I was made vampire, well, no one I would have been willing to answer."
"I find that hard to believe. I don't imagine that none of the women you've been with haven't been curious about what you were like as a human … what your life was like."
His voice took on a note of smugness. "I said no one that I would be willing to answer. I would not speak of something so personal to any of those vermin. They were lucky enough to be graced with the pleasure I provided them. Lucky enough to get to touch me. They did not deserve my words … my history."
With her head turned to look at him, he was so close their lips were only inches apart. She could feel her heart pounding as she whispered, "I … I guess I should thank you then … thank you for telling me. I enjoy hearing about your past."
"You may ask me anything you like, little one. I cannot promise I will always answer, but you are free to ask, nonetheless. Few have this right."
"Does Pam? Didn't she ask you about your past?" Sookie desperately wanted to distract him because if he kissed her she didn't think she'd be able keep herself from kissing him back.
"Vampires do not speak to each other of such things. When I made Pam, she embraced this life and never looked back. I doubt she thinks it is an important topic, and, as such, has never brought it up. She learned quickly from others that I had been a warrior, but she never asked me any questions of her own about my past. I taught her my people's language but that was so we could speak privately while others are present. Beyond that, she never requested to know anything else of my days as a Northman."
Shaking her head Sookie turned around to fully face him. "But, it must mean something to you. You took Northman as your last name … if your past was not important to you, you wouldn't have done that."
Smiling down at her, Eric traced his knuckles along her cheek. "Ah my pet … you are so clever. Yes, my past means something to me. While I am not the man I was as a human, I still hold many of the same values and beliefs. I was a warrior and a chieftain. Fighting and leading were in my blood and what I was raised to do. As such, I carried these traits with me into my vampire life. I do not miss my human life, but there are parts of it I carry with me still. My father was a great man and his father before him. We were not as bad as history has painted us. All of my people were honorable warriors, and I strive to be so now … well as much as I can be in the vampire world."
"Wow. I can't help but wonder of all the things you've seen in the last 1,000 years. All the places you've gone."
His smile carved two deep grooves in his cheeks. "I'll make you a deal, little one. If you—"
"Oh no! No more deals! Every time I make a deal with you, I get dragged deeper and deeper into stuff I know nothing about! I may be curious, but I'm not stupid."
Laughing softly, Eric steadied her with his hands on her hips. "Hear me out before you decide." He felt her tension dissipate and smiled when she remained quiet. "For every tale of my past I tell you, you tell me one of yourself."
Sookie stared up into Eric's blue eyes as she mulled the simplicity of their deal. "That's it? You tell me and I tell you?"
"Yes. On the nights we spend together away from Fangtasia, we shall share stories of ourselves. You can learn more of me and I shall do the same of you."
"I don't have as many stories as you. You've got a millennia's worth and I've only got 25 years. You'll get pretty bored."
Shaking his head, he replied, "I doubt that. Nothing about you bores me. However you bring up a good point. You do have fewer stories, but I have a solution. Instead of telling me only stories of your past, you will interchange them with your hopes and dreams for the future. This will draw our deal out longer."
Sookie thought it over for a moment. Her fear that he was manipulating her into something that was somehow going to end up in his favor was in the forefront of her mind, but her desire to know more about him was equally as strong and far more compelling. Finally she decided it was a small risk and nodded. "Okay, you have a deal, but it starts now. What you just told me doesn't count."
He threw his head back and guffawed till he was hoarse. "Oh, my precious … you are learning. Agreed, the deal starts now. However, since it is so late, I would suggest we look at your star and save the storytelling for another night."
In total agreement as she was starting to fatigue, Sookie nodded. "Okay. So you work the telescope this time and I'll do it next time." She watched Eric step around her so he could work the keypad and quickly programmed the telescope to locate her star. As he was working, Sookie commented, "You're pretty familiar with all of this. Do you have one of these or did you read the manual before you gave it to me?"
"I have always had a telescope since they were invented. Every few years, I buy the latest model so I can see more of the sky, and, yes, to answer your question, I have this model currently. It is wondrous what humans have created in the last century. You can see far away galaxies, black holes, quasars … unimaginable things."
"You're a vampire. It amazes me that you are so intrigued by the stars. It's so … human."
As the telescope shifted to locate Sookie's star automatically, Eric shook his head at her. "No, Sookie. The stars are anything but human … they are the beyond. I have walked this earth for a thousand years. I have seen pretty much all this realm has to offer. The stars? They are the unknown. Neither my nor your race understands them. In truth, I look forward to the day humans conquer the problems of space and settle on the Moon, and, after that, maybe Mars. I wish to walk these lands, and then, one day, travel beyond this galaxy to see what else is out there."
"Wow. I … I never thought about that … living in space."
"You wouldn't. Humans rarely extend their thinking beyond the confines of their own lifetime. However, the fact remains, that, within the next century, humans will have colonized the Moon. Plans are already in the works. Plans for Mars are already being considered as well, though you humans are farther away from achieving that goal. Regardless, many vampires are truly excited about the coming century. The Moon does not have as much exposure to sunlight as the Earth since it has a different orbit. Theoretically, we could go nearly three weeks without being exposed to sunlight if we lived there, and we wonder what living in such an environment would be like for us. Indeed, the coming century looks to be a truly exciting one for vampires."
Seeing the awe in Sookie's face, he thought, 'And you will be there to see it with me. I will turn you and we will live amongst the stars together. We shall walk other worlds side by side, my precious … but it is not time for you to know that.'
Shaking her head, Sookie exclaimed, "I … I just couldn't imagine that! Living on another world? Wait—what did you mean by this realm?"
The beep of the telescope indicated the star had been located and brought into focus, and Eric used it to deter her. "That is a discussion for another night, little one. Come, see your star."
Sookie stepped into the shelter of Eric's arms again to lean down and look into the lens of her telescope. There it was, her star. Bright. Beautiful. Hers. She smiled despite herself and whispered reverently, "My star."
"Your star," Eric replied, pleased with her enthusiasm. The telescope made a clicking sound as he hit a button, and he added, "I have saved the image. This telescope can record in real time for hours in case you ever want to record a distant meteor shower or shooting star, and it can capture still images. The information is saved to the chip I showed you. Upload them onto your computer. They will be stamped with the time and date, and, if you are recording or capturing the image of a known celestial object, the name will be provided as well."
Straightening, she offered him a shy smile. "Thank you for this, though I hope it's the last gift you give me. I'm getting overwhelmed here."
"I have limited time, Sookie,” Eric said softly, his voice seductive but firm. “When Bill returns, you will no longer accept my gifts, so I must take advantage of the time available to me."
'I should ask him now. I should ask him if he had a hand in Bill's abduction or demand proof he's looking for him. But …' Looking up at the stars, she hedged. 'But I can't. Not tonight. Tonight he's given me pieces of himself. He's told me things he's never told anyone and I'm not going to return the favor by questioning his honor. I'll ask him tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.'
Eric could feel her doubt and worry through the bond and he sensed she wanted to ask him about Bill. He had known it would not take long for her to begin to question whether he was, in truth, responsible for Bill's abduction, or if he was truly looking for the fool. However, he hoped she did not bring it up now. They had shared something special tonight and he did not want to ruin that by speaking of the younger vampire. He was pleased when she remained silent and murmured, "It is getting late Sookie. You can look at your star more another night. It is time for our blood exchange and then you need to go to bed."
Her tone was clearly startled. "But I—I thought you said you would wait for me to ask?"
"That was only last night. Last night was for you … completely for you. To show you what can be between us. I did not want to take from you, so I didn't. Tonight, however, our deal is back in effect. Bare your neck to me." He wanted to form the circle again but knew she'd balk. He would have to content himself that this exchange would bind her to him completely. Once she had his blood to complete the exchange, the third exchange, his blood would bind to her and, from this day forward, any vampire she encountered would know she was bonded to a vampire. Those that knew him would pick up his scent embedded in her. Bill would return to know he was a part of her entirely … return to find that Sookie was lost to him forever. There would never be a day in the rest of her life that Sookie would not have him inside her. Even other supernaturals would know she was bonded to a vampire. She would forevermore carry his scent, would smell slightly of vampire as well … smell slightly of him. He could not wait. He felt almost giddy.
Taking a deep breath, Sookie stepped towards him, swept her hair off her neck, and tilted her head to the side. "Don't take too much."
Wrapping his arm around her waist he pulled her against his chest. He nipped her jaw before trailing gentle kisses down her neck until he reached her pulse. 'Mine,' he thought as he swirled his tongue over the area before biting deep. Immediately, he felt himself harden as her unique and delicious taste filled his mouth, rich, warm, nourishing … intoxicating.
'She is Valhalla embodied … my own Valkyrie, MY Sookie!'
"Oh god." Sookie felt her eyes flutter closed as Eric sucked at her neck. Each time he drank from her got better and better until it was almost a sexual experience. It had never been this way with Bill. She had been able to tolerate his feedings because they took place during sex—but this? This was different. This was so much more. Fisting her hands in his shirt as he pressed her closer, she couldn't help the moan that escaped her. "Eric …."
He heard her whisper his name with longing and grinned against the curve of her neck. Taking a few more deep draws of her exquisite blood, he lifted his head euphorically. "Your turn." Swiping his tongue across his bite marks to heal them, he reached into his back pocket to retrieve his knife. As her neck punctures healed with his tongue's strokes, he flicked the blade open and brought it to his own neck. Making a quick gash, he raised his head from hers and ordered, "Drink."
She didn't even think to hesitate. She felt him lift her higher up against him as she placed her hands on his shoulders and leaned forward to latch onto the wound. 'So good,' she thought dreamily as the spicy taste of him filled her mouth.
Eric dropped the knife and cradled the back of her head as he felt her warm mouth working against his skin. He could feel it! He could feel them being bound together, knowing, finding, connecting, combining!
"Sookie …." His voice was harsh with need and he pulled her closer. He wanted nothing more than to hold her forever. To feel her pressed always against his body.
She could feel something shifting inside of her. Something was changing and she knew it, but she couldn't stop drinking! Heat, fire, hunger, desire, need swelled within her. Eyes closing languidly, she slid her arms around his shoulders and hiked her legs around his waist to press closer, practically growling into his neck. Her sucking increased and her mind was awash with only one thought. 'More.'
His fingers skeined into her silky hair pulling her closer, pressing her mouth tighter against his neck as he let his other hand trail down her back to cup her ass. He groaned at the pleasure of their union, her scent, the moment.
"Drink! Drink from me and become mine!"
He could feel the bond between them explode with power. It felt like thousands of tiny charged particles were weaving together under their flesh, pulling them closer, tighter, folding inwards, outwards, spinning them irrevocably together. His skin vibrated with the force of what was happening between them. Without thought, he growled and sank his fangs back into her own neck to complete the circle. Once again, his blood was healing her even as she drank so there was no fear of him taking too much.
She heard him, but couldn't comprehend the meaning of his words. When he bit into her again she was so far gone with feelings of lust, satisfaction and need roiling inside her, she didn't even blink at the sting of his less than gentle bite. 'More! I need more of him!' His mouth provided the kindling to the fire coiling within her. Something deep inside her was waking, something other, she could feel its tendrils unfurling, exploding at the base of her spine and shooting upward throughout her body. She could feel herself being pulled inexorably towards him, something deep within entwining her to him, knotting and becoming one. She shook in his arms as his own body trembled against hers.
Both of them surrendered the last of their control, so lost in the drowning pleasure of the feel and taste of the other they didn't notice what was happening to them. Sookie's body began to sparkle and then glow. Hot white light shot through her pores, travelling the length of her body and entering Eric's from where their mouths connected. It raced across Eric's face, pouring down his neck to bathe his entire form until both he and Sookie were both standing in her backyard illuminating the dark with sparkling blue-white energy. Streaking sparks fizzed and discharged around them carried like fireworks into the sky. Eric fell to his knees, cupping Sookie's bottom instinctively to protect her fall. Her legs shot out wildly, sputtering against the heated contact of their bodies. They were both lost in currents of savage sensation.
Power unlike anything either had ever experienced echoed in aftershocks. More than pleasure, there was life. The earth rocked beneath them as fissures ripped through the ground shooting forth brilliant rays of light. The power pulsed between them. Jolts of energy tore across the ground in rippling waves to have all life around them standing at attention. All around them, the trees groaned and shook as they grew several inches in height. Death from the drought was reversed, the fertile earth shooting up grass that stood ramrod straight, turning from a mix of brown and dull olive to vibrant green. Pure white flowers sprung up on the ground to create a circle around them and radiated across the yard. Birds and wildlife normally asleep during the night came alive and began to sing as life filled the air. They were one. The bond was complete and it was done.
An energy ripped through him, suffusing him with a pleasure unlike anything he had ever experienced. Eric threw back his head and roared so loud it shook the very earth. Beneath him, Sookie released his neck and her own cry joined his as she arched against his hard broad body. Her nails dug into his shoulders as a string of blue-white light appeared between their chests, connecting their hearts. It hummed and throbbed with energy before growing brighter and brighter, hotter and hotter, until it exploded in a shimmering geyser of lights that rained down over their bodies.
Afterward, they lay in a tangle of limbs, neither willing to let go. He had managed to brace most of his weight on his arms, but from the waist down he was pressed tightly to her. He could hear the fierce rush of air in and out of her lungs as the haze in his mind slowly cleared. Looking up, he was startled to see sparkling lights of energy filling the air around them. Turning, he let his gaze travel the yard and took in the differences. He saw the circle of flowers surrounding them that had spread across the ground. He could see dozens of eyes glowing at them from the surrounding forest as the wildlife within watched them intently. He could feel and sense magic all around him and he knew it was the result of what had just happened between him and Sookie. Gazing down at her, he saw her eyes were glazed but radiant with some inner light. Her skin sparkled a little, but it was slowly fading into its normal golden hue.
What had happened was not just the result of a blood bond. Something much more had occurred and he had no name for it. He knew only a sense of profound shock and awe. "Sookie … my Sookie … what are you, you precious thing?"
Reaching a hand up towards his face, Sookie traced her fingers over his brow before cupping his cheek as she murmured, "I feel you"…. and then she fainted.
He tried to rouse her but she was out cold. He felt his neck wound heal and leaned down to lap at her second set of punctures. Sitting up, he pulled Sookie into his arms tenderly. Looking around again with her cradled against his chest, he could literally see the lingering effects of magic all around them. It was clearly epic. Something powerful had transpired between him and Sookie when they bound, and he sensed that the surprises were just beginning.
He looked down at his precious Valkyrie. "It's over for both of us now, little one. You will never escape me and I'm beginning to understand the same can be said for me." His lips brushed hers softly and he stood with her.
He wore a self satisfied grin as he mulled the truth of his words in his head. He easily lifted Sookie's sleeping form and carried her into the house. She was obviously not going to wake up, so he would get her settled in bed before storing her telescope. All he knew for sure was things had just gotten much more interesting.