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Monday, September 10, 2012

Chapter 22 ~ Benefit Dance

The next morning, Sookie woke earlier than normal as she wanted to head over to Lafayette's and speak to him about the deal she'd made with Eric. Getting up at 7am, she took out Thor and then fed him before heading upstairs to take a quick shower. Done, she dressed in her Merlotte's uniform, wrote a note to Tara which she left on the breakfast table, and jotted a note to Bobby that she intended to tape on the front door. 

After calling Thor to her and grabbing her purse with her gun and phone, she stepped out onto the porch. As she was pressing the tape on the door that held the note for Bobby she heard a man's voice call out to her.

"Miss Stackhouse?"

Turning around in surprise Sookie put a hand to her chest as she gasped, "Oh!" Two men stood in front of her with such similar appearances she knew they had to be related. Both were tall with lean builds, though it was obvious they were muscular, with sandy brown hair and dark brown eyes. The younger looking one was only an inch or two shorter, but they were both very handsome. From the buzzing heat of their minds she knew they were Weres and took a dip inside their minds.

Pretty hot for a vamp pet, though Alcide said she isn't sleeping with the Viking. She smells of his blood and carries his scent but it's obvious they're not having sex. Quite the looker though, maybe watching out for her won't be that bad a gig after all.

Nice tits …Tray said she's got that real down home southern charm going for her and is pretty up front about everything. We're supposed to be nice so that she'll like us and maybe help us out when we come out … though we'll have to get the Viking's approval since she's his asset and bonded.

Smiling at both men she said, "I'm guessing you're my guards for the day?"

The taller of the two stepped forward and nodded his head as he said, "Yes Ma'am. I'm Mark Wallace and this is my younger brother, Allan. We're going to be guarding you today. Alcide originally planned for us to split the days up but changed his mind. Two of us will stay with you during the day and two will watch you at night. That will give us all time to rotate and catch up on any business we have and rest since there are six of us."

Coming to stand beside his brother Allan added, "We were told that you didn't usually head into work until around 9:30am or 10am, so we're wondering where you're headed off to so early."

Chewing on her lip while Thor growled softly at the two men as he sat by her feet, she finally said, "I actually have something that I need to take care of this morning before going into work. You guys can just meet me at Merlotte's since I'll be heading over there right after to take care of the books before we open."

"I'm sorry Miss Stackhouse but we can't let you go anywhere without us. Northman's orders. Where you go, we go," Mark replied.

Tapping her foot, Sookie continued, "Well I need to talk to someone about something really important, and while I appreciate you watching out for me I can't have you listening in. Eric told me you guys can hear really well. Not as well as a vampire apparently, but well enough that you'd pick up my conversation."

Mark and Allan exchanged a look before Mark offered, "Well we have to go with you, but if you like we can keep far enough away that we won't overhear you if you're not yelling. We have good hearing like the Viking said, but if we stand far enough back we won't pick up what you say. You can also turn a radio or TV on and that will definitely prevent us from hearing you talk, but we won't be so far away that if you scream for help we can't come running."

"How far back do you have to stand?" Needing to hear the truth in their heads she put her hand on Allan's arm as though she was steadying herself as she pulled her foot back to make it look like she was checking to see if there was something on the bottom of it. Both men looked startled by her action, but she really needed to make sure they told her the truth.

‘The Viking is probably overestimating how far we can hear anyway. We have better senses but they are dimmed in our human forms. Our senses are much stronger when in our wolf forms, of course, we've never let the vampires know this. It helps that they think all our senses are just as powerful in our human forms.’ 

Forcing herself not to acknowledge Allan's thoughts while both men hesitated to answer she pressed, "Well?"

Finally Mark answered, "Fifty feet and we won't be able to hear what you're saying."

Nodding her head as she removed her hand Sookie said, "Okay, and while I can't hear your thoughts I can still sense you. People, shifters, Weres, demons, everything except vampires have a brain pattern that I can pick up. So while I can't hear your thoughts I can feel the buzz of your minds so if you come closer the buzz will get louder and I'll know."

Smirking at her, Allan nodded his head and replied, "Good to know. I'll follow in my truck while Mark rides with you. Is that ok Miss Stackhouse?"

Waving her hand dismissively Sookie started down the steps with her keys in her hand and Thor at her feet as she insisted, "Please call me Sookie. Miss Stackhouse makes me feel old."

"Alright then, Sookie. Let's go," Mark said as he gestured to her Mercedes. Once Allan was in his truck and he was seat belted beside her in the luxury SVU with her puppy in the backseat Mark added, "This is a nice car."

"Thanks. Eric got it for me."

‘I thought Alcide said she wasn't with the vamp? What's he doing buying her a car like this if he's not sleeping with her?’

Mark was silent as Sookie pulled out onto the road before saying, "Uh, Alcide led us to believe that you weren't with Northman? That you just worked for him?"

"I'm not, and I do. Taking this car was part of another deal I made with Eric … I kind of didn't have a choice, but I can admit I really like it."

"What deal?"

Sookie was quiet a moment since she knew she couldn't tell Mark everything. Eric had gone to great lengths to cover up what Jessica had done, and her telling Mark would undo all of that. Finally she said, "A friend of mine was in serious trouble and I couldn't get her out of it. Eric offered to make the problem go away if I agreed to let him try and convince me to be with him. Due to our contract he can't force me into a sexual relationship … I have to come to him. So in order to get my friend out of trouble Eric made me promise to spend time alone with him and accept any gifts of his. I'm pretty sure he'll get the message soon enough that I'm not going to get involved with him romantically, and give up soon enough."

‘Give up? Northman never gives up on anything he wants. Everyone knows that. Wonder why he's giving the girl a choice at all? He could just force her to obey him. She's only human after all, and she is his asset and bonded. In the eyes of the Council and our world she belongs to him. No one would interfere if he used force to get what he wanted from her.’

Again Sookie didn't indicate she could hear his thoughts but she wondered and his mention of her being Eric's asset and bonded. She didn't like the sound of what he thought. 'I don't belong to Eric. I just work for him, don't I?' Finally she decided she'd talk to Eric about it tonight when he took her out.

The rest of the way Sookie made light conversation with Mark and learned a lot about the Shreveport Were pack. Apparently Alcide's father owned a large construction company and most of the Weres worked for him. Tray owned a motorcycle shop and did repairs and several of the Weres worked for him also. It sounded to her like the Pack truly stuck together and lived and worked as one; she thought that was beautiful.

When she pulled up to Lafayette's house with Allan behind her she said, "Okay. I expect you two to hang back the agreed upon 50 feet. I'll know if you get any closer."

Nodding his head Mark opened his door along with Sookie and replied, "Will do Sookie. We won't listen in. We're here to protect you. Not spy on you."

As she came around the front of her car and pressed the button to turn the alarm on Sookie answered, "Well I appreciate that and all, but I'm learning pretty quick that I can't take anything at face value in your world."

"That's probably smart. We have an agreement with Northman to protect you, but as a human playing the Supe game that's really smart."

Smiling at him, Sookie tapped her leg so Thor would follow her and moved to knock on Lafayette's door. It took her a good five minutes of knocking and shouting for him to open up before he finally pulled the door open in his bright pink leopard pajamas with a definite scowl on his face. When he saw it was her he smiled and opened the door wide. Stepping inside she said, "We need to talk."

Arching a brow at the two men standing across the street, he turned to face her and locked the door while replying, "Guess he said no huh?"

"Wait," moving to turn on his TV with the volume up Sookie then sat on his couch and said, "I don't want them hearing us."

Taking a seat in the chair, Lafayette asked, "Them? Who's them? Those guys across the street? How could they possibly hear us from the other side of the street?"

"Yeah, uh, well let's just say they have pretty good senses and what I have to talk to you about is important. I talked to Eric and he's going to let you out of your agreement. I just have to—"

"Sook, that's great!"

Holding up her hand Sookie shook her head and added, "Wait. I'm not finished. He'll let you go as soon as I find someone to replace you with. I have to find another seller that has never gotten a supply from drainers before; someone in or around Shreveport no farther out than we are in either direction. I was hoping you could give me some clues as to where to start looking. And if you know sellers that get their stock from drainers I don't want to know."

Leaning back in his chair, Lafayette replied, "Gosh Sook. I only know of two other sellers and I'm pretty sure they both got their supply from, well, I don't think they'd be suitable."

"Damn. I was hoping you'd have something for me to go on. This will definitely make it harder for me."

Lafayette was quiet a minute before saying, "Hey, I might know where you can start looking—there's this club in Shreveport. It's a real rave type scene. People that take V love to go party there. If you go one night you'll defiantly find some sellers and maybe some of them don't get from drainers. I know there have to be more people that have an arrangement like I had with Eddie."

Picking up his thoughts on exactly what his arrangement with Eddie had been Sookie put a hand on Lafayette's arm and said, "Lafayette you are worth so much more. I know you want to get out of this town and go on to bigger and better things, but don't do it by selling yourself short. You are a true person and I don't want to see you have any regrets in the future."

Taking her hand in his, Lafayette nodded his head. "Yeah, that whole thing with Eric and what happened in his basement really opened my eyes. I've shut my website down and stopped doing all that sex stuff. I want out of this town, but I'm going to find a way to do it straight. In fact me and Tara was talking about it the other day and thinking about trying to open a store in Monroe together. Like an alternative clothing store. She was thinking of taking a few business classes at the community college and I would take a few clothing design classes. You know I make a lot of my own clothes and am real good with a sewing machine. We could have some market clothing and I could make some of my stuff in bulk….we could do good."

"Lafayette that's wonderful! You guys would do great! And hey, I think after you guys finish your classes I can help with some start up money."

Clearly looking shocked, Lafayette asked, "How?"

Picking up Thor who was pawing at her leg, Sookie said, "Well you've seen Eric around a lot right?" When he nodded she said, "I kind of got backed into a contract to work for him. I'm making $4,000 a month and I'll get bonuses for working out of town, which I probably will be soon due to recent events. Eric also paid me $10,000 for my work in Dallas. By the time you guys finish these classes you want to take I should have enough money saved to help you get started."

"Damn! That's amazing Sook! But, uh, don't you think working for Eric is kind of dangerous? That man don't play."

"You're telling me. Eric isn't the greatest guy Lafayette, but I'm safer with him than most. He doesn't want me dead and that gives me some bargaining room. Besides I didn't have a choice. I need Eric to help with something … and me agreeing to work for him is the only way he'd agree to do it."

"Help with Bill you mean?"

Gasping in shock Sookie asked, "How did you know?"

Shrugging his shoulders Lafayette said, "Well Bill's been gone an awfully long time, and you haven't mentioned him at all except to say he's still out of town and you're not sure when he'll be back. Add that to the fact Eric made such a scene at the hospital the other day and it wasn't too hard for me to figure out something was wrong with Bill. I figured you'd made some type of deal with Eric to help him out like you did to get me out of trouble. I'd tell you to quit looking out for people but I know it would be no use."

"Yeah, well you know me. Anyways will you take me to this club sometime this week?"

"Course I will. You're doing it to help me after all. Saturday nights are the best night to go so how about then?"

'I'm supposed to work for Eric every night Fangtasia is open, but he'll just have to let me have one night off. I'll talk to him about it tonight.' Nodding her head at this Sookie replied, "Saturday will be great. The sooner we get this taken care of the better … and Lafayette?"


"Don't talk about this to anyone, ever. Once we get you out of this we never bring it up again."

"You don't have to tell me, Sook. I know when to keep my mouth shut."

Smiling, Sookie stood up and said, "That's good. Well I'm going to head on over to Merlotte's. I want to get started on the books and have them and the daily orders done before we open. Sorry to wake you so early, but I needed to talk to you."

"Understood, you can come to me anytime Sook." He walked her to the door and grabbed her arm before she could leave and said, "Tara told me that you got some trouble coming your way with those religious freaks."

"She shouldn't have told you anything."

Lafayette shrugged and said, "I cornered her about those guys following you yesterday, though it seems you got some new ones today. She told me that those Fellowship freaks are after you for hanging with vamps and for you know…you being different. I just want you to know I got your back. You get into trouble you give me a call and I'll come."

Hugging him Sookie replied, "That means so much to me."

"Well people like us gotta stick together Sook…no one else will watch our backs for being different and proud of it."

Kissing his cheek Sookie said, "I'll see you at work." With that she headed off his porch with Thor trotting after her. She waved Mark and Allan over and they were on their way."

The rest of the day passed quickly as Sookie worked at the bar. Just as with yesterday there were hushed whispers about her two bodyguards, and even more thoughtful speculations, but Sookie ignored them. As Tara had said her business was her own and she didn't have to answer to anybody. At around 6:30 she told Tara she was leaving as her friend had agreed to close for her.

Making her way home with Mark and Allan, she found Bobby and the security guys just finishing up for the day. Bobby told her that two packages had arrived for her from Eric that afternoon and were waiting for her on the kitchen table. He gave her a brief overview of the progress made on her home, and then left with the workers after a brief nod in her direction. She again huffed at his rudeness, but knew she needed to start getting ready if she wanted to be able to take that long bath she had been dreaming about all day. After setting up Mark and Allan in the living room to watch TV and feeding Thor she grabbed her packages and headed upstairs.

Setting everything on the bed she decided she'd open them after she had bathed and headed to her new bathroom with a towel. As the tub filled up she took a quick shower to get her hair washed and then pinned it atop her head as she stepped into the steaming water of her whirlpool tub. She'd added some honeysuckle scented oil and the steam carried the scent throughout the room as the gentle force of the jets soothed her muscles.

As she reclined back in the tub she let her mind wander to Eric and their confrontation last night. 

'I knew things were too good to be true with him. Despite how he acts around me, he's still the manipulative vampire sheriff that is always going to look out for number one. We had a deal that he would let Lafayette go, and while I was in Dallas risking my life for Godric he went behind my back and threatened my friend into working for him, selling V no less! He's obviously able to be whoever he needs to be when the situation calls for it. That proves to me he's just putting on a good show to get me to like him.'

Hating that thought she wondered, 'But why? Not only has he made it apparent, but everyone else has all but outright said if he wanted to he could force me to not only work for him, but … well, have sex with him too. So why is he going to all this trouble? If he could have forced me to work for him all along, which I'm pretty sure he could and still can, why go to the trouble of setting up a contract in the first place? What game is he playing? Why is he doing all of this?'

She simply didn't understand it. What she knew to be about Eric, and what he was showing her were two completely different things. She couldn't get the pieces to fit. All she knew was she couldn't allow herself to be lulled into a false sense of security by him again. He was obviously capable of acting like the perfect gentleman, but that's all it was an act. She wouldn't let him fool her twice.

She allowed herself to soak in the tub for almost an hour before getting out. She'd used a diffuser to finish drying her curly hair, and then went to see what outfit Eric had sent her so she'd know how to do her makeup. Crawling onto the bed with a towel wrapped around herself she opened the largest package that surely held her dress.

Pulling it out she couldn't help but be awed by the beauty of the gown. It had a black crystal beaded sweetheart bust that draped past the waist. The skirt was floor length white silk with a mermaid train that draped out behind her. The gown was beautiful and she hated the fact that she liked it so much.

Setting it aside she reached for the other package. Opening it up she found another blue and white Tiffany's box and knew that she wouldn't like what she found. Inside the Tiffany's box was a black velvet case much larger than any of the other ones she'd gotten. Flipping it open she gasped at what was inside. Within the box she found an entire jewelry set that had to cost more than all of her previous gifts combined. There was an elegant necklace formed with round, tear drop and pear diamonds that would lie across her collar bone in a sparkling glory. The earrings matched the set and would dangle down from her ears to nearly reach her chin. There was a matching bracelet and a magnificent ring with three large diamonds. It almost resembled an engagement ring, but she would definitely be wearing it on her right hand. The entire set was in platinum, and Sookie couldn't believe she would be walking out of her house tonight in such expensive jewelry. Seeing a small note tucked into the lip of the case she pulled it out and read:

My Sookie,
These jewels pale in comparison to your natural beauty, but I hope they please you all the same. I can't wait to see you in them.

Shaking her head at Eric's extravagance she made her way into the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. She used a neutral lip gloss and smokey eye shadow to highlight her eyes, and for her hair she pinned half back with a small clip she could hide in her hair and left the rest down around her shoulders. When she was done she slipped into the dress with the matching shoes, which you wouldn't really be able to see with the long skirt, before taking the jewelry case into the bathroom to put everything on. When that was done she loaded her phone and wallet into the purse Eric had sent and then headed downstairs.

On the couch Mark and Allan looked up as Sookie came gliding into the room and their mouths dropped open. She was absolutely stunning. Due to all the blood she was taking from Eric her skin was completely unblemished and glowed with life, and the dress she wore shaped her body like a perfect hour glass. Her breasts and hips were showcased in the gown and all the diamonds she was wearing sparkled like the night sky. "Wow," Mark said as he let his eyes skim over Sookie's figure.

‘She looked good today in those shorts and her work shirt … but DAMN. This girl's got curves.’

‘I wonder since she's not sleeping with the Viking if that means she's allowed to date other guys?’

Sookie blushed at the brother's scrutiny before asking, "Do I look alright? Or did I overdo it with the eye shadow?"

Gulping, Allan shook his head. "Ain't nobody going to be looking at your eyes." His own gaze never left her chest.

‘What's up with the Faery Star on her chest? That's an awful powerful symbol for her to be walking around with. I wonder if she knows what it means or if she just thought it looked pretty?’

‘She's got the mark of the Fae on her, what's up with that? Does she have some kind of connection to the Faery?’

Sookie resisted the urge to look down at her chest to see what Mark and Allan meant with the Star thoughts, and instead said, "I'm going to take Thor outside real quick. I'm going to be leaving him here tonight so will you tell the guys who are staying the night to listen for him? If he starts to freak out they can come to look after him. The back door will be unlocked. He's never been alone before and I'm worried about him."

"Just leave him plenty of water, some toys and something that smells like you and he should be alright. Give him the shirt you wore today to lay down on and he'll be fine … but we'll tell the others to listen for him if he starts to freak out while you're gone."

Smiling at them, Sookie took Thor outside to take care of his business and then went back inside to retrieve her shirt from upstairs. 

When she headed back down she found Eric standing in the entryway looking up at her. She forced herself not to admire how nice he looked in his tux as she walked slowly down the stairs with the shirt in her hand while she held up her skirt to keep from tripping.

For his part, Eric was trying to control himself as he watched Sookie approach him. He'd arrived seconds after Sookie went upstairs and had noticed the two Weres sitting on the couch after he let himself in. He was about to ask them about Sookie's day, despite the texts they had sent during the day to report, when he heard Sookie's heels on the stairs and looked up at her. 'She's beautiful,' he thought in awe as she made her way down the stairs towards him. It seemed every time he saw her she took his breath away.

The gown was perfect on her as he knew it would be, and hugged all of her curves tightly. The diamonds looked wonderful against her tan skin and his blood inside her had her glowing. He liked the darkness of her eyes since she'd obviously done her makeup to match the dress. He had his hands behind his back so she couldn't see his gift for her and as she came down off the last step he brought his hands forward and said, "You look lovely Sookie."

Looking down Sookie saw the brightly colored maroon and white orchids in the black pot adorned with sparkling stars. She had to admit giving her a living plant was better than a cut flower that would die, but she wasn't going to say anything to him about it. She was still unbelievably pissed at him for his actions towards Lafayette and she wouldn't be forgiving him anytime soon. Taking the pot she muttered, "Thanks," and set it on the table by the door as she crossed her arms under her chest and asked, "Where are we going?"

Perturbed by her demeanor, but well aware it would take awhile to get back into her good graces, Eric replied, "It's a surprise again. Are you ready?"

"Let me just say goodbye to Mark and Allan." Turning to face the brothers who had stood from the couch she stepped forward with a warm smile on her face and said, "I want to thank you guys for following me around all day. I know you must have been bored out of your minds, but I thank you anyways."

Both brothers were thoroughly amused by Sookie's attitude towards Eric. Despite him being a vampire women considered him dead sexy, literally, and there were even a few women in their pack that wouldn't turn down a roll in his bed. So they thought even better of Sookie for being so unimpressed by him. Mark stepped forward and said, "It was no trouble…we got to look at you all day."

"Yeah Sookie…great way to spend the day in our opinion. You look beautiful by the way."

Eric could easily scent the rising arousal of the two Weres towards his female and moved to stand beside Sookie as he said, "You two can go." When Allan's gaze lingered on Sookie's chest his fangs popped out and he hissed, "Now."

"Eric!" Sookie was shocked at his behavior as he glared at the two Weres menacingly. When he started growling she turned to the brothers and said, "I guess I'll see you guys the next time you have a shift. Thanks again for looking out for me."

"Our pleasure," Allan said as he and his brother headed past the two to walk out of the house.

When they were gone Sookie spun around to look at Eric and demanded, "What the hell was that!"

"They offended me with their attention to you. They are here to keep you safe, not undress you with their eyes."

"Why the hell would you care if they look at me or not? You dress me up every night at Fangtasia so others will look at me so what's different now?"

"It's different because no one at Fangtasia would dare to speak to you without my permission let alone attempt to garner your affections. Those Weres are here to protect you and nothing more. In future you will not speak to any of your bodyguards unless necessary. They are tools, not friends." Truthfully, Eric hadn't even considered that he would have to worry about Sookie's bodyguards becoming enamored by her, but now he was kicking himself for not considering it sooner.

'The Fae blood in her naturally attracts supernaturals, and, with her looks and disposition, it is no wonder the Weres are becoming captivated by her. I will not allow them to divert her attention from me, but I cannot remove them as her guards. Her safety is my primary concern.

He decided he'd have to think about this later and decide what to do; besides, at the moment, Sookie was revving up for a fight.

"Eric Northman you cannot tell me who I can and cannot be friends with! You're the one that insisted on me having bodyguards so you can just get over the fact that I'm going to try and be friends with them." Moving to put her shirt on the floor near Thor's food bowls, she tossed over her shoulder, "And don't you dare order them not to speak to me either!"

Smirking at her craftiness and inwardly pleased she was learning to play the game, especially now that he'd already secured her for his own and assured she would never escape him, Eric merely commented, "As long as you remember that you are forbidden from entering into a romantic attachment to any of them."

Having set Thor down on her shirt, Sookie turned to face Eric with her hands on her hips as she demanded, "First of all I wasn't even thinking about that considering I'm with Bill! Secondly who do you think you are to tell me who I can be with and who I can't?"

'I am your Master,' he thought in pure possessive fury. He could feel the beast in him demanding he simply claim her and turn her now to be done with the whole thing. She would learn to accept the gift of immortality sooner or later and settle into her position as his companion and child after some training, but something deeper in him still held him back. Some part of him screamed that doing it would be a fatal mistake, and thus he would not. Godric had taught him to always listen to such emotions within himself and he would not doubt his Maker's teachings now.

With this in mind, he stepped towards Sookie and said, "Sookie I allow you to say no to me as often as you wish, but I will not permit you to say yes to another."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Coming to stand directly in front of her with only a few inches separating them as she stared up at him from her height disadvantage Eric stroked the curly locks of her hair draped over her shoulder and replied, "Just what I said little one. I will not allow you to spurn me for another. Until I decide I no longer want you, you are forbidden from seeking the affections of another, and be assured my attention is not easily diverted."

Feeling fear creep up her spine Sookie whispered, "B—but I'm with Bill now."

'Only in your mind. Bill is lost to you my pet, you just don't know it yet.' Smirking at her Eric replied, "We'll see, just know that until he returns and you decide your standing with him you will share time with no other man but me, is that understood?"

Nodding her head Sookie replied, "Whatever, let's just go already."

Grabbing her keys and purse Sookie stepped out onto the porch and gasped at the sight of the black hummer limo waiting for her. Turning to look up at Eric as he stepped out of the house behind her she asked, "Where are we going?"

"You'll see," Eric replied as he waited for her to lock the house up. Truthfully the plans he had for her this evening had been a spur of the moment decision he'd made last night in order to get back on her good side. Tonight was a ball in honor of those that had donated to the new children's wing of the Shreveport Parish Hospital. As he had donated more than any other he would be getting special recognition at tonight's event. He hadn't planned on going before yesterday, but once he'd left her last night in such a snit he had decided it would benefit him to attend with her.

He'd only made the donation because of the tremendous tax cut it got him of course, not to mention the image it allowed him in human society. Part of Vampires coming out was making humans believe their being part of vermin society would be beneficial to them. Humans would not accept their presence if they didn't believe they were getting something out of it. His 10 million to the hospital would go far in making him appear the tame and docile Vampire humans were willing to tolerate. He despised mainstreaming, but he realized that in order for Vampires to survive now that they were out he had to do his best to get humans to like him.

'The ball will be my first step in turning things around with Sookie after last night's unexpected setback. Tonight's event couldn't have come at a better time. Bobby said that the Board of Directors were shocked to get my last minute acceptance to the ball. My money bought me a plaque on the wall of donators, but no doubt none of those vermin thought they would have to shake my hand in person for my money. But it matters not. They will bow and scrape before me and drone on and on about how thankful they are for me saving their weak and diseased offspring, and Sookie will eat up such perceived kindness on my behalf. I will play my part well tonight, and it will crack that new barrier around her heart she has against me. She loves children and she believes I have a soft spot for them along with puppies, all I have to do is use this misconception to my advantage.'

After Eric had helped her into the limo Sookie made sure to keep her distance from him when he joined her on the other side. When the driver had shut Eric's door and they were off she asked, "What's the mark of the Fae? Or the Faery Star?"

Eric was startled by the sudden question and asked, "Where did you hear of them?"

"Mark and Allan were both thinking about it. When I came down tonight to take Thor outside before you got here they were both thinking about why I have the Faery Star or Mark of the Fae on my chest. I'm thinking it has something to do with the whatever you, Pam and Chow freaked out about the other night."

'Damn her clever mind,' he thought in annoyance. 'Should I tell her? No. She still cannot see it, but it is obvious supernaturals can. Whatever reason Magic has for shielding it from her eyes it must be a good one. It is not for me to tell her. Besides doing so might only frighten her more about what is between us and I don't want that. But if I don't give her something she'll look for her own answers and I don't want that either.'

His decision made he decided to give her a bit of the truth mixed with outright lies. "The mark of the Fae is a powerful symbol among supernaturals, and it is also known as the Faery Star. It has many meanings, and several interpretations. You shine to supernaturals, and more importantly the area over your heart glows to us. You are not normal Sookie, we can all sense that, but when we see the skin over your heart the essence of whatever it is that gives you power radiates like the Faery Star, which has an aura all its own."

"You told me it was the necklace."

"Yes I did. I told you that because I did not want to alarm you. Your heart attracts our attention. It attacks the attention of all supernaturals. However I must warn you Sookie that as few understand why you are different bringing this topic up could be dangerous. Do not speak to anyone of the Faery Star unless you are sure they are trustworthy. You saw the reaction I, Pam and Chow had. Some would react far worse if they thought you radiated its power."

'She will come to find out how often I am lying to her soon enough, but not for awhile yet. I must take greater care that the mark is concealed from those who are not loyal to me. Andre made mention of it when Sookie went outside the bar to care for her puppy the other night. He asked me why she had it and I lied and told him that it is just a tattoo she has and isn't aware of its meaning. I could tell he was skeptical, but as so many humans use ancient symbols these days for decoration without knowing how powerful they are he couldn't dispute the fact. I'm lucky she distracted him with that Fellowship spy before he had a chance to ask her about it.'

Shaking her head, Sookie said, "I don't understand any of this. How can you guys see something that isn't there?" She looked down at herself but as her eyes only saw clear skin she continued, "What do you mean it radiates?"

"I cannot describe it to you. Perhaps once you are in our world long enough and exposed to our ways you will come to understand. For now I do not know how to make you understand something you've never experienced and have no way of conceiving."

Annoyed at his answer but understanding the logic behind it, Sookie moved on to her next topic. "Ok now I want you to tell me exactly what being your asset entails? I've been hearing some thoughts from the Weres about you and our arrangement and I want to know what they mean."

'Damn, her ability is really getting in the way. I'm starting to think it would be better if she didn't have it. It would make it so much easier for me to lie to her and get her in the position I want her in if she wasn't telepathic.'

Deciding to try and sidetrack her he said, "I'd like to know what you heard. Are the Weres loyal to me? Or are they plotting against me?"

"They intend to honor your agreement, now stop trying to distract me, what does being your asset mean?"

"You know what it means. You signed the contract."

Shaking her head Sookie pressed, "I want to know exactly what it means in your world. What does me being your asset mean to other Supernaturals? And I caught the word bonded in reference to me. Alcide thought it strange that I was your bonded and yet we weren't having sex. What does that mean?"

Hating being pinned down, but realizing that trying to sidestep the conversation would only make her more suspicious, Eric decided once again on an abridged version of the truth mixed with a lie. "You are aware of what sharing blood with Compton and allowing him to claim you as his meant yes? How I had to go through him to get to you?" 

When she nodded, he continued, "It is much the same thing with us. Being my asset proclaims you as my personal telepath, and as much as you'll dislike it, property to other Supernaturals. No one will try to take you, no one will be allowed to garner you assistance or force you to work for them without my permission, and no Supernatural may approach you that I have not approved of."

That being pretty much what she already knew, though she didn't like the property part, Sookie asked, "And bonded? What does that mean?"

Really having to get creative with his explanation now Eric replied, "You share blood with me often. It causes you to carry my scent. Any supernatural that comes into contact with you will know you belong to a vampire and should keep their distance, and those that have met me personally will recognize my scent and definitely keep their distance unless they wish to die."

"Did I smell like Bill when I was with him?"

"No. You only took Bill's blood a few times and apparently didn't exchange mutually. The scent is only transferred when a mutual exchange is made."

Sookie was quiet for a moment before asking, "It will go away when we stop exchanging blood when Bill comes back right?"

"Yes." The lie rolled easily off his tongue, and he felt absolutely no remorse for it whatsoever. If he had to lie to win her so be it.

"That's all it means right? Being bonded just means that other vamps can't approach me to work for them without going through you first?"

"Yes." He didn't even flinch.

Eyeing him skeptically, Sookie continued, "And when Bill gets back if I decide to work things out with him after he tells me whatever it is he's keeping from me you'll hold up to our agreement and stop sharing blood with me? You won't stand in our way of being together?"

He didn't even blink as the lie poured out of his mouth. "Indeed."

Sitting back against the seat she replied, "Good."

Wanting to get off the topic of her and Bill's relationship he asked, "Do you like the jewelry?"

"They're pretty Eric, but you can't buy me. Covering me in diamonds isn't going to make me forget what you did. I'm still mad."

"I'm aware. The fire of your anger is bright in your eyes. I like it, but I hope to redirect it in more pleasurable ways as we did last night."

Gritting her teeth, Sookie hissed, "Don't mention that! It was a mistake and it's not going to happen again!"

Within the blink of an eye, Eric was pressed against her side as he leaned down to nip at her ear before whispering, "Want to bet?"

Leaning against the door Sookie put her hands on his chest and pushed at him as she said, "You're too close! Get back on your side of the car!"

"Oh, I've yet to get close Sookie," Eric purred as he loomed over her. The minty freshness of her breath washed over him as she panted in growing fear. Last night had shown him that while he should continue to garner Sookie's friendship, she did respond well to dominance. He intended to use a mixture of both. Keeping her off balance seemed to get results he liked far more. If riling her and redirecting her anger got him between those smooth thighs of hers he would provoke her any time he could, as long as he had a way to soothe her ire soon after. Tonight he was going to parade her in front of dozens of sick children his money was saving, so he could afford to be bad now.

Sookie gasped as Eric suddenly had her in his arms as he dragged her into his lap. Pushing against his hold she cried, "What are you doing?"

"Really Sookie, isn't it obvious? I'm holding you." Eric nuzzled her cheek before licking gently along her neck and shoulders.

"Let me go!"

"No. I've decided I like the feel of you in my arms and I'm not going to deprive myself of it. It's bad enough you won't let me inside you, I have to console myself somehow."

Feeling his arms tighten around her to prevent her from struggling as he continued to nuzzle her neck, Sookie said, "Eric, you promised that if I told you to stop you would."

"I promised to stop any of my advances towards you. Right now I am simply holding you and I don't intend to let you go."

Pushing against his arms one last time Sookie hissed, "You jerk! You really are dead set on making me mad!"

"I enjoy your fire, but this is more to get you used to my touch. I do not like the distance you put between us. If you reject my romantic advances that is your choice, but you will not deny my comfort. I have decided."

"Oh, you've decided! So that's the end of it!"

"Indeed, now we shall continue with our agreement. As I am not driving, it will take us another 45 minutes to get to Shreveport, so what story of my past shall I tell you? Or would you like to go first?"


Having expected her to be difficult Eric was not put off by her rigid body in his arms or her refusal to answer him. "Very well. I'll go first. I will tell you of my experience at Woodstock and the ‘60s in general." He felt the leap of excitement from her due to their bond and started his tale.

"The ‘60s were an exciting time amongst you humans. Your morals, beliefs, and standards seemed to change practically overnight here in the US. What was never acceptable a mere decade before was now widespread. The message of "Free Love" as you can guess was well received by vampires. We are all about debauchery and pleasure. The hippies provided this in droves. It was strange feeding off of drugged people, but pleasing in its own way."

He could feel her curiosity through the bond and knew it was only her anger keeping her silent. Deciding to be generous he said, "When a vampire feeds normally there is a rush of adrenaline followed by a warmth that spreads through our body. It doesn't last of course as our body breaks down your human blood quickly to sustain us and we ourselves are cold, but we can enjoy the warmth of the living for a few hours at least after feeding. Feeding off a human on a psychedelic drug is an entirely different experience. The rush is stronger and nearly overcoming and then we feel not only warm, but, I don't know how to describe it, fuzzy inside? There's this tingling that lasts for a good half hour or so depending on the vampire. Our blood naturally breaks down unnatural substances so the feeling doesn't last long, but it is strange. However as it dulls the senses, vampires don't indulge in drugged humans very often; we like to be vigilant."

"Pam and I had heard of the festival some weeks before it began and as we were thoroughly enjoying the hippie movement had decided to attend. While we were not fond of the unsanitary conditions, the sheer orgasmic haze nearly every human there seemed determined to stay in made up for this. There was nothing but music, open orgies, drugs, and plentiful humans running around looking for the next big rush. We fed freely and happily. With all the humans so mentally altered we didn't even have to hide ourselves. We merely surrounded ourselves with whichever oversexed, drugged up humans caught our attention and partied the nights away. We jumped from one orgy to the next feasting and enjoying ourselves."

She couldn't resist, she had to ask, "Did you wear flowers in your hair?"

"Absolutely not. Pam did. I have pictures. I'll show them to you, but you must never tell her."

A smile forming on her lips she finally let herself relax against him and rested her head on his shoulder. She was still mad at him, but since he wasn't going to let her go she might as well enjoy the story. "I won't … who was your favorite performer?"

"Jimi Hendrix, hands down."

"Didn't he play last? And wasn't it in the morning?"

"Indeed. However as Pam and I did not want to sleep outside we had glamoured the owners of a close farmhouse into letting us rest there and since I can rise early in the morning I was awake and heard him across the field, not to mention I and Pam met up with his band that night at a nearby hotel for a private performance. Despite his drug addiction that man could do incredible things with a guitar. It is sad they saved him for last. Most people had already left, and the concert organizers were actually starting to clean up as he played on stage, but his set is the one that has been immortalized from the original recordings."

Looking at him over her shoulder, she asked, "You met him?"

Nodding, Eric replied, "Fed off him too. He played a private set with his band for Pam and I that lasted about 2 hours. I was so impressed with his skill and the things he could do with the guitar I had Pam give him some of her blood. His body was already succumbing to years of hard drug abuse and some internal problems which were only amplified by his addictions. I enjoyed his music and demeanor so I had Pam donate a bit to sustain him. He didn't last long though, and was dead within a year despite this intervention. However he would have died within weeks without it. It was his skill and approach to playing the electric guitar that convinced me to learn to play."

"You play the guitar?"

Pleased by her interest, and that her anger was subsiding, Eric shifted her in his hold so that she was sitting sideways on his lap. He kept one hand wrapped around her waist, while his free hand began to toy with her fingers as he answered, "I play many instruments. Vampires must find ways to amuse ourselves and occupy our minds over time. If we do not we go insane. I filled my time with learning different fighting styles, playing instruments and wood working."

The shock evident on her face Sookie said, "Wow. I—I can't really see you doing any of that, well, except the fighting."

"Would you like me to play for you sometime?"

"What can you play?"

"You name it I can play it. The piano, the saxophone, the drums, the guitar as I said, the violin, the flute, the cello, and some instruments you have probably never heard of. The only instrument I don't play is the accordion. Useless instrument."

"Wow. I—I guess I'd like to hear you play them all sometime, though I can't really picture you playing the flute."

Chuckling, Eric said, "I'm sure there are a great many things I can do you wouldn't expect of me."

"Do you paint?"

"No. I tried it a couple of times but I've never been very good at it. I'm better at carving wood. Pam does however. She's quite skilled. I'll show you some of the pieces I have of hers in my home sometime. In fact you know the painting above my couch in the lair?"

Looking up at him in surprise she asked, "The one with all the women together in a gazebo at night? She did that? Really?"

Pleased by Sookie's impressed reaction at his child's skill, he replied, "Indeed. Pam has considerable talent. She's more into abstract art now though, but her work is still impressive."

Letting him toy with her fingers as she absorbed that information, Sookie asked, "So you enjoy woodworking?"

"Yes. I like working with my hands. I built homes and ships as a human, and often built the homes Godric and I shared on our travels. I like building things. The bed we slept on in my home I built. The bookshelves, coffee table, and almost all the wood furniture in the above house I built. I didn't give you a tour of the house, but the next time you are there I will show you my woodshop and music room. I think you'll like them."

Sookie smiled at that and said, "I'd like that. I always wanted to learn to play the piano, but we could never afford the lessons let alone anything for me to practice on. I asked Bill about it when I found out he knew how, and he said he'd teach me but he never really got around to it."

"I'll teach you. I taught Pam."

"Really? This is so bizarre. I just don't see you guys doing these things. They're so … human."

"Vampires are actually great patrons of the arts. Many vampires are artists and musicians. There is a woman in Italy, Sabrina, who plays the piano so well it will bring tears to your eyes. She is only about 400 years old, but well respected in our world for her gift."

Smiling at this and so caught up in his words she didn't notice he was stroking the inside of her wrist rhythmically, Sookie asked, "What else do you enjoy doing? How have you occupied your time over the centuries? When you weren't out conquering armies and mythical monsters that is."

Chuckling softly, Eric said, "I've done many things. I ski, surf—"

"You surf!"

"Indeed. When I go on vacation I usually go somewhere with snow or with great waves. I learned to surf in the 40's while visiting Hawaii with Pam."

Shaking her head Sookie replied, "You go on vacation and you surf? This just keeps getting weirder and weirder!"

"Vampires enjoy being entertained every bit as much as humans Sookie, more so as it is not easy for us. We are never afraid to try new things, and when we find something we enjoy we stick with it."

"Wow. I can't picture you in swim shorts catching waves on a beach … even if it is at night."

"I can take you to Hawaii next week and show you if you'd like."

Seeing he was absolutely serious Sookie shook her head and answered, "No, that's alright. I'll take your word for it."

'One day we'll vacation together and I will claim you on the beach before taking you again in the water,' he thought before asking, "What about you? What do you enjoy doing most? What are your hobbies?"

"Nothing as glamorous as all that. I've never really had the chance to cultivate any besides reading and sunbathing. It takes money to do everything you're talking about, and I've never had any. Besides once I was old enough to work I always had a job to help Gran with the bills, and that didn't leave me much free time. When I was little I used to take horseback riding lessons. I was in love with horses and my parents got me the lessons as a Christmas gift, but after they died I had to stop since Gran couldn't afford to pay for them."

Making a mental note of her fondness for horses Eric asked, "Well if you would quit the shifter's bar you would have far more time. With what I'm paying you, you don't need to work for him anyway."

"Eric I'm not going to quit working for Sam. I actually like working at the bar. All my friends work there, and everyone I know goes there at some point in the week."

'We'll see.' Deciding not to press her on the issue just yet he asked, "Well if you did have more time what hobbies do you think you'd like to have?"

Shrugging Sookie replied, "It doesn't really matter. My days are full and most of my nights as well. And they will be for the foreseeable future. There's not much point in thinking about things I'd like to learn to do but won't have the opportunity to."

'Oh but you will Sookie…very soon. As soon as the Shifter is back and learns you're my bonded I'll be speaking with him and your days will be wide open.' Knowing he couldn't tell her this, Eric pressed, "Humor me. I want to know what you would enjoy doing if you could do it."

Sookie was silent a moment before finally answering, "If I had the time I'd probably take up horseback riding again and learn to play the piano."

"Anything else?"

"I don't know. I've never thought about it."

'It's a start. Once I end her servitude in that filthy bar she'll have plenty of free time, and want to find ways to spend it.' Nodding his head Eric said, "So tell me about your friend Tara … how did you two meet?"

Sookie spent the rest of the car ride telling Eric stories about her and Tara growing up. She never noticed that Eric continued to stroke her hip with one hand as his other played with her fingers and wrists during her recitation. She didn't know it but he was slowly getting her used to his touch, and he was pleased she didn't fight him on it.

When the limo finally came to a stop at the Shreveport Convention Center, Sookie had just finished telling him about how she and Tara went to the prom with Lafayette. They'd ended up getting wasted when they drank the spiked punch and doing a poor rendition of The Supremes in front of everyone, but they'd had a good time.

Hearing the driver exiting the limo and coming around to open the door Eric grinned devilishly at Sookie. There were lots of dressed up sick children inside his money was helping and Sookie wouldn't be able to stop herself from being impressed by his pseudo act of kindness. With this in mind he knew he could use this moment to take advantage of her.

As she was sitting in his lap Sookie turned her head to look out the window to see where they were. She saw dozens of well dressed people getting out of smaller limos and making their way up the steps into the building. Turning back to Eric she began, "Where are—mmmph!"

He moved his arm from around her waist to the back of her neck and pulled her lips to his. Slanting his mouth over hers he let his tongue delve deep into her mouth as his other arm banded around her to hold him to her. He could feel her struggling against him, but he ignored it as he stroked her tongue into submission with his own.

When he finally released her to take in some much needed air, Sookie growled, "Don't do that!"

"No promises," Eric answered just as the driver opened Sookie's door. 

She pushed out of his arms and moved to take the man's hand so he could help her out and Eric used his vampire speed to exit through his door and be at her side before she had even finished getting out. 

Holding his own hand out to her, ignoring the stunned expression on the driver's face, he said, "My lady."

Leveling a glare at him Sookie set her other hand in his as she nodded at the driver for his assistance. When Eric tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and began leading her up the steps while pulling out some gold invitations from inside his suit she asked, "Where are we?"

"You'll see. This is a celebratory function of sorts for a building project I donated money to. Once we're inside you should understand."

"Was it for Katrina? Are you giving money to help rebuild New Orleans?"

"I did give a substantial amount to help build New Orleans, but this is a different function."

Realizing he wasn't going to be giving her anymore information Sookie faced forward and headed up the steps with him. She'd never been to the Shreveport Convention Center, but thought it looked lovely. It was decorated with lilies and twinkling lights and she wondered what event Eric was taking her to. When they made it to the door and Eric handed over his gold tickets she noticed that everyone else's were black and asked softly, "Why are yours different?"

"Because I donated more than most." When the security guy took his tickets and checked for his name on the list Eric was pleased at the man's reaction; his eyes widened the second he realized he was a vampire and ushered him and Sookie in quickly while reeking of fear.

Once inside, Eric led Sookie through the main hallway to the exhibit hall that had been turned into a ballroom. He was pleased to notice that as they passed everyone looked at them, and he was sure it wasn't just because of him. While his impressive size and natural appeal always turned heads, Sookie was every bit as stunning. He was also satisfied to see that no other woman wore as much jewelry as he'd adorned her with.

When they stepped through the doors Sookie immediately saw the silk banner hanging over the stage that read, "Welcome Benefactors and Friends of the New Shreveport Parish Hospital Children's Wing." Looking up at Eric she asked, "You gave money for the Children's Wing?"

"Indeed." Eric was about to say more when the Mayor spotted him, called out his name and headed over with his wife. Eric had known the man since he came into office, and had glamoured him more than once to allow himself and other vampires to get ahead; as such the Mayor believed he was very fond of him.

"Mr. Northman! I'm so pleased you could make it tonight," Mayor Glover greeted as he came to stand before Eric and Sookie with his wife on his arm. He was in a tux much like Eric's though it was obvious Eric's was much more expensive. His wife was in a black sequined floor length dress with a platinum necklace with a diamond heart pendant on her neck. The woman eyed Sookie's dress and abundance of jewels with jealousy as her husband spoke with Eric.

'Guess being the whore of a dead man gets a woman lots of pretty things in life. Disgraceful. Why did they have to invite the vampire to tonight's ball anyways? Just because he gave more money than most doesn't mean we should have to tolerate his company. Who knows how he got that money anyways. These vamps just appeared out of nowhere and they're all rich. I bet they killed good, decent, hard working people and stole the money before they revealed themselves.'

Forcing herself not to acknowledge the woman's thoughts Sookie smiled brightly and kept quiet as Eric spoke with the mayor. 'People have the right to think whatever they want,' she told herself.

Eric could feel the tension in Sookie and judging by the envious glare the Mayor's wife was sending Sookie, and more specifically Sookie's jewelry, he was fairly certain his pet was picking up on the woman's less than flattering thoughts. Focusing on the Mayor, he said, "Good evening Mayor Glover. I'm pleased to be able to attend and see the benefits of mine and others donations to such a worthy cause. May I introduce my date Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie this is Mayor Cedric Glover and his wife. I'm sorry I forgot your name, my dear." He sent the woman a condescending smile as he pulled Sookie closer to him.

The woman smiled at him before replying, "Veronica, might I say your jewelry is beautiful, Miss Stackhouse. You certainly outshine us all this evening, and you look beautiful in your dress."

Before Sookie could answer, Eric did. "My Sookie is always beautiful, but I like to see her in such things and gifted her with these tonight as a surprise. She was more pleased with the puppy I gave her the other day, but she has always been different from other women in that regard."

Sookie was annoyed with Eric's behavior as he was obviously displaying her as his property, but she knew enough to keep quiet about it. She'd speak to him later about talking over her like this. "Thank you Mrs. Glover, you look lovely this evening as well."

Picking up on his wife's animosity the Mayor diverted the conversation back to Eric and said, "You've never brought a date to any of the city's functions before, unless it was Pam of course. She's your child I believe?"

Inclining his head Eric smiled down at Sookie and said, "Pam is my child and normally my escort to public functions, but Sookie will be filling that role from now on."

"Well then, young lady, I look forward to seeing more of you. I won't take up any more of Northman's time as I'm sure there will be many others that wish to speak with him. I hope you both have a good evening." With that the Mayor took his wife's arm and pulled her away.

When they were gone Sookie said, "You've glamoured him a lot haven't you?"

Glancing down at her Eric asked, "Why do you say that?"

"Whenever he thought about you his thoughts were blurry and forced. You've glamoured him into liking you haven't you?"

Smirking at this Eric leaned down to kiss her temple as he whispered, "You never cease to please me."

"Don't try to sweet talk me. You attacked me in the car, and now you're parading me around like some arm candy. You're not winning yourself any brownie points. You bought me this jewelry to make me look better than all the women here…you're trying to shame them."

"No I'm making a point. You are better than all here. None of these vermin can hold a candle to you, and as humans judge worth by jewels I'm merely showing them that."

Shaking her head Sookie replied, "If you think so little of humans why did you give money for the children's hospital?"

Lying smoothly to please her Eric said, "I prefer children to adults. They are truthful, and not as jaded as their parents. They amuse me."

Before Sookie could respond, another couple came forward to speak with Eric. After that there was another and another, and soon over an hour had passed as Eric led her around the ballroom. He never sought the attention of anyone. Instead, by the time he had dismissed one couple, another had come forward. Sookie found that the thoughts about her and Eric ranged from people thinking they looked striking together, to disgust that a vampire had been allowed in attendance, and of course outright jealousy of most of the women that she was with so handsome a man. Vampire or no. She was also slightly surprised to find that quite a few of the men, married or not, were jealous of Eric for having her on his arm. Needless to say, her shields were certainly being tested. Eric had just finished dismissing the Chief of Surgery at the hospital when the President of the Board of Directors took the stage and called everyone's attention.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to have you here tonight. We are here to celebrate the reaching of our 35 million dollar goal in order to build the new children's wing at County. This day has been a long time coming, and with this money we embark on the arduous road to saving the lives of our future generations. Donations came from all over, but special recognition goes to a certain gentleman in particular. He has donated generously to several worthy foundations over the years, and when we approached him for money for the children's wing, he didn't hesitate. The very next day we had a check for ten million dollars. Without his aid, we would not have been able to be here tonight celebrating a new era in medicine at County. Ladies and gentlemen please give a round of applause to Mr. Eric Northman, the greatest benefactor Shreveport County Hospital has ever had!"

Sookie gasped beside Eric at the announcement as one of the lights in the rafters was redirected to shine down on them. She plastered her nervous smile on her face as everyone turned to face them and those closest backed up a bit to form a small circle around her and Eric as they stood in the middle of the ballroom floor. Looking up at him she watched as he gave a small nod towards the President before placing his arm around her waist. He didn't say anything, but apparently he didn't need to as the President continued speaking.

"In honor of Mr. Northman and his contributions to our fine hospital we are erecting a special plaque with his name that will be displayed visibly at the entrance to the children's wing. Now, if everyone will please clear the floor we will allow Mr. Northman and his date to officially kick off this ball with the first dance. Maestro? Music please."

As the floor cleared around them and the conductor started up the band with a slow waltz Sookie looked up at Eric nervously and whispered, "They're all staring at us!"

Taking her hand and wrapping an arm around her waist Eric replied, "Let them. You do know how to dance do you not?"

"Yes, but I don't like so many people looking at me," Sookie answered quietly as Eric took the lead and began twirling her around the empty floor.

Eric could feel her nervousness building inside her. His Sookie truly was a modest creature that preferred to go unnoticed most of the time. He would break her of that habit as well. For now, he sent gentle waves of calm to her through the bond, and was pleased as she slowly began to relax in his hold. They were gliding across the floor as he said, "Ignore them, look only at me."

Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Sookie set her free hand on Eric's shoulder and lost herself to the music. The only man she'd ever really danced with had been Lafayette since most of the town thought she was crazy, but there was no doubt her flashy friend knew how to move and made sure she did too. Thus she was able to keep pace with Eric and move fluidly in his hold.

Eric found himself shocked at how well Sookie danced. Most Americans today could barely shuffle around a dance floor as many of the old dances had been lost, but Sookie mirrored his every step perfectly. Her back and shoulders were straight and she was like a gentle breeze in his arms. The slightest touch of his hands directed her as she followed his lead well. He had never enjoyed dancing with a partner so much. 'She surprises me at every turn,' he thought as he dipped her back before twirling her in his arms.

Easily tuning out the voices of those around her, and focused solely on Eric, Sookie asked, "Why did you give them so much money?"

"Because they needed it."

"Is it really that simple for you?"

"Not always. Many people and organizations need money, but as you know children are a favorite of mine. They asked for money for their sick children, so I gave it to them."

Smiling up at him Sookie whispered, "That's really sweet."

'And so she begins to like me again. Perhaps I should give money to an orphanage in her name? No. If I overdo it she will know I am doing it simply to impress her.' Pulling her closer he allowed himself to revel in the feel of her body against him as he twirled her around the floor. She looked stunning in her dress and diamonds. She sparkled in his arms and he could hear the whispers of the humans around him talking about how very stunning they looked together, and he had to agree. Sookie looked perfect on his arm and he intended to have her there as often as possible.

Sookie was truly enjoying the dance, and no longer bothered by the many stares of those around them as Eric twirled her around the floor. She found herself blushing as he looked down so intently at her and thought, 'I don't understand how he can be so cold and ruthless one moment and the next I find he gave 10 million to help sick children. Who is this man?"

Hearing the song wind down, Eric took a gamble on Sookie and how she might react to bend her back and claim her lips in a searing kiss. He was hoping she wouldn't cause a scene and pull away from him; or worse, slap him. He'd spend all night glamouring every one of these humans to forget such a memory if she did. However he was pleasantly surprised when she simply succumbed to his kiss, and let him ravish her for a few brief moments.

Sookie gasped into the kiss when his mouth settled over hers. Her first response was to jerk back and give him hell for taking advantage of her but then she remembered his words, ‘Because they needed it,’ and her heart melted a little. Sick children had needed money and he had helped them. He deserved a kiss. So she simply closed her eyes and let it happen. She hoped he wouldn't embarrass her and take it too far. As her eyes were closed she didn't see the many flashes of cameras around her.

Eric did though, and smirked to himself as he pulled Sookie upright and spun her around to face the crowd. As he was so well known in and around Shreveport as a Vampire he was certain there would be some press publication of his little show with Sookie. He couldn't wait to see her reaction to whatever happened because of those photos.

Sookie gave a little curtsy as Eric bowed beside her as everyone applauded their performance, but she was grateful when he tucked her hand in his arm to lead her off the floor as more music started and other couples came onto the floor to dance. She was about to ask where they were going when she saw the group of children and parents seated off to the side of the stage. From the looks of the children she knew they were sick and she smiled gently at them as Eric led her towards them.

Ever the tactician, Eric knew that introducing Sookie to the sick children and their parents that had been invited to the event for publicity would only earn him those "brownie points" she had been speaking of earlier. With her at his side he approached the children and nodded his head as he greeted, "Hello children. are you having a good evening?"

One girl who obviously had cancer as she had no hair stood from her chair and asked, "Are you really a vampire? My daddy said you were."

Releasing Sookie's arm Eric crouched down in front of the girl and replied, "Your daddy told you the truth. I am a vampire."

Another boy with cancer came to stand beside the girl and cried, "Cool! Are you old? My brother said vampires can live forever and ever!"

"I'm over a thousand years old, and we do live for long periods of time. I was a Viking a long time ago." As Eric answered the questions, he delighted at the emotions he was feeling from Sookie through their bond. She was practically melting on the spot.

Behind him, Sookie's eyes filled with happy tears as Eric popped out his fangs and let the children touch them as they "oohhed" and "aahhed" at his otherworldliness. She was surprised that the parents weren't afraid, upset, or offended by his presence and felt only benevolence at him being there. All of them were so grateful for his donation, and she felt her heart about to explode.

Greatly pleased by Sookie's reaction to his gestures, Eric decided to take it a step further. As the news people were now taking pictures of the Mayor outside from the sound of it he could afford to make another demonstration that would win Sookie over even more; as long as it wouldn't be captured by the press. He couldn't endanger his frightening image to the humans more than he already had after all. Selecting a child and identifying her parents he asked, "Would you mind if I gave your daughter a gift?" When they smiled and nodded he picked up the smallest girl who was gaunt and smelled strongly of death and asked, "What is your name, small one?"

"Grace," the girl answered.

"Would you like to fly?"

Looking at her parents, who merely waved at her to show she was ok, Grace answered, "Sure, but how?"

"Like this," Eric answered as he floated of the ground with the girl in his arms. He heard the gasps of people around him as the girl wrapped her arms around his neck and laughed in delight as he circled the ceiling of the ballroom with her tucked in his arms. He made several rounds before floating them back to the ground. Setting the child on her feet as she giggled happily he said, "Now you have done what few humans have, you've flown."

The moment he landed the other children clamored around him requesting their own turns while the crowd applauded his display with shocked expressions on their faces. Eric ignored the clapping and smirked at the children crowding around him to point at Sookie, who waved at them with tears in her eyes, and said, "I would sweet children, but my Cinderella has to be home before midnight. Perhaps next time." With that he stood and grabbed Sookie's arm while ignoring the stares of the impressed adults around him.

Beside him, Sookie nodded her head at the staring people as Eric led them out of the building back towards their limo; which was apparently the only one allowed to wait by the curb for some reason. When they were back in the car and on their way she leaned over and kissed Eric's cheek as she whispered, "Just when I think you have no redeeming qualities you go and doing something like that. There just might be hope for you yet, Viking."

As Sookie rested her head on his shoulder, Eric couldn't help but grin. 'Oh my Sookie,you are too easy to please. When will you learn I do only what is beneficial to me? You continue to walk right into my traps little one. Soon I will have you convinced I am the perfect man for you and you will come to my bed willingly, and then I will shatter your illusions and show you who is Master and who is slave. Enjoy what freedom you have while it lasts my pet. Soon you will be in chains at my side and live only to please me.'


  1. she's overhearing an awfully lot of stuff to challange eric with. I really hate how much he is lying to her. She really needs to interogate some other supernaturals. Can she PLEASE get some fairy powers to zap his ass???? Where is Niall when you need him. grrrr he is such a scoundral

  2. damn he can be such an ass... he better hope she does not hear him because when she does she is going to be mighty pissed.....he can be so sweet to her but damn when he thinks he is arrogant ass... Kristie

    okay another oopps
    "I'm over a thousand years old, and we do live for long periods of time. I was a Viking a long ago." missing the word time.... "long time ago"

  3. I just wanted to let you know for authenticity that Shreveport isn't a county. There are no counties in Louisiana, we have parishes instead. Shreveport is a city in Caddo Parish. Also, in the chapter that Eric tells Sookie about his dog you say that "people do not give dogs their do" it should be due. As always I love your story. This is probably my 10th read through while I wait for an update and I just happened to notice those two things. Hope you're both doing well!
    - Exiled Guardian

  4. Just to let you know for authenticity purposes, there are no counties in Louisiana, we have parishes. Shreveport is a city in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Also, in the chapter that Eric was telling Sookie about his dog you said that "people do not give dogs their do", it should be due in that instance. As always I am thoroughly enjoying your story. This is probably my 10th read through while I await an update and I just happened to notice those two things. I hope that you are both doing well!

  5. Just for authenticity purposes, I thought I would let you know that we do not have counties in Louisiana, we have parishes. Shreveport is a city in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Also in the chapter that Eric is telling Sookie about his dog you say that "people do not give dogs their do." It should be due in that instance. (By the way I completely agree) As always I am thoroughly enjoying your story. This is probably my 10th read through while awaiting a new update. I hope that you are both doing well!