Since she'd missed so many lessons while they were in New York she'd had them all again today and been just as busy. She still hadn't had the chance to miss her freedom of movement much due to her hectic schedule but that didn't mean she'd forgotten about it. Eric had told her she needed to call Sam and tell him she couldn't work for him anymore or he would do it, but she was hoping it wouldn't come to that. She was hoping to keep him in a good mood tonight and talk to him about letting her work tomorrow as she was currently scheduled to, however, at the moment she was pestering him about the photo.
"I don't understand why we just couldn't take the picture ourselves. Why do you have to hire a photographer? You only hire photographers for big events and weddings."
Offering Sookie a small smile, Eric replied, "You can hire a photographer for all sorts of things. This picture is going on my desk, so it should look nice."
"I could have just given you one of the pictures of me I already had. Gran had dozens hanging on the wall that I haven't had the chance to hang back up since the house was painted," Sookie said as she stroked Thor's head where he was resting it on her seat as he sat on the floor at her feet. "Can I get a picture of Thor?"
"If you want one, and while I like all pictures of you this is a special one. This one is just for me so I want it to be the best."
"Expensive doesn't always mean the best, Eric."
"You're beginning to convince me of that. Thor is one of your favorite gifts and he was relatively inexpensive. It seems the less money I spend on our outings and your gifts, the happier you are."
Sookie smiled at that and replied, "Usually the less money you spend on something the more you think about it, and it's the sentiment that counts in a gift with me."
"I'm getting that."
Sookie was quiet a moment before she said, "I want to send Ahmose a gift, but I don't know what to send him."
Looking at her out of the corner of his eye Eric asked, "Why do you want to send him a gift?"
Catching the slight trace of anger in his tone Sookie rolled her eyes and sighed, "Don't get all jealous Eric. I didn't mean it like that. I wanted to send him a gift as a friend."
"Yeah. I get that vampires are all weird about friends but I see them differently. Ahmose was really nice to me and didn't treat me like dirt just because I'm human. He did his best to keep Bill out of our way while we were with him and he was just really nice. He also gave me the statue of Isis so I want to give him a gift to show my appreciation … any ideas?"
"He could buy himself anything he'd want."
"Eric, gifts don't have to be big grand gestures. Just something nice to say thank you. Normally I'd bake a pie or something but obviously I can't do that for Ahmose, so give me an idea of something I can send to him."
Tapping the wheel, Eric said, "First, you cannot send him something. If you truly wish to get him a gift you will give it to me and I'll send it to him with a note that it comes from you. Second, I have absolutely no idea what you could give him."
Scratching Thor's ears Sookie asked, "Why can't I send it to him?"
"Because you're my bonded and it is inappropriate for you to do so. I told you before that your contact with other vampires and supernaturals must go through me. He will understand why it comes directly from me. I will allow you to write him a note though and include it with the package. However I will read over it before I send it to make sure it is not inappropriate."
"Of course you will. Fine, so help me decide what to send him."
"I already told you I have no idea. As I said he has the money to purchase himself anything he wants."
"And I told you that gifts don't have to be expensive, just thoughtful."
"Then think of what you know about him and decide on a gift based on that."
"You are so helpful."
Rolling her eyes at his smug expression, Sookie allowed them to fall silent for a moment before she smiled and said, "I'll go to Color Me Mine and make him something. He gave me his statue of Isis and since his gods mean so much to him, I'll paint Isis's symbol on something and send it back. Do you think he'd like that?"
Nodding his head Eric replied, "I think he would like it very much. He is in awe of you and would appreciate anything you sent him, but probably that especially."
Satisfied with her idea and his approval of it Sookie focused on the radio and flipped channels until "Love Story" by Taylor Swift came on. "Oh I love this song!"
Rolling his eyes at the country song filled with sappy lyrics Eric replied, "Of course you do. It drives me insane and therefore you have to love it. Isn't it enough I had to sit through her concert in New York? Must you make me listen to it now?"
Sookie just smiled and turned the volume up even louder. The rest of the trip was spent in comfortable silence with brief conversations between them. Finally Eric pulled the car into park in front of a building in Shreveport. All the other businesses around it were closed and the sign on the front read "Carla's Studio".
As he turned the car off Eric could barely contain his smile. He knew that Sookie had absolutely no idea what he had planned. She really needed to start setting rules and limits on their bets. 'She's going to be so pissed, but it will be worth it,' he thought as he took her hand and led her into the building once they had both gotten out of the car with Thor trotting at their feet.
Sookie looked up at Eric and asked, "What are you smirking about?"
"I'm just eager," Eric said with as much innocence as he could muster.
"Eric, is there something you need to tell me before we walk in here?"
"What are you insinuating little one?"
"You have that innocent look on your face and that always means you're up to no good."
Eric laughed as he pulled open the door so that she could walk in ahead of him. "Sookie, you think such horrible things of me! You agreed to have a picture taken for me and that is exactly what I've arranged. Now, shall we?"
Looking into the generic lobby of the studio Sookie shook her head and muttered, "Why do I get the feeling I'm about to be really mad?"
Eric just laughed as he followed her inside. They both came to stand at the counter and Eric taped the little bell to announce their arrival. A moment later, a tall woman with short cropped black hair came out from behind some long floor length black silk curtains with a big smile on her face. She was wearing a black shirt and pants and no makeup. She wasn't stunning, but she wasn't ugly either. Sookie picked up easily that the woman wasn't the least bit interested in Eric and was a devout lesbian. That's how she knew Pam. Sookie actually blushed at the images she picked up out of the woman's head before she slammed her shields up.
"Hello. I'm Carla and I'm assuming you two are the friends of Pam that she told me would be coming by?" the woman asked as she completely dismissed Eric and focused on Sookie.
Eric of course had known the woman was a lesbian and that was exactly why he'd chosen her. He was not going to allow a male to take the photo he wanted of Sookie, and he didn't think it wise to allow a straight female to do it either. He'd need Sookie as relaxed as possible to get her to do this and a female drooling all over him would definitely not pull that off. So knowing Carla was a complete lover of all things woman he wasn't upset by her dismissal in the least, he was standing next to Sookie after all. "I'm Eric Northman and this is my bonded Sookie Stackhouse. Pam is my child and she told me that you have done both photographic and video work for her on numerous occasions. She highly recommends you."
Crossing her arms over her chest Carla replied, "Pam does love her movies doesn't she? I enjoy working with her very much. She gave me a rundown of what you'd like so I have several sets already in place for you to take a look at so you can decide what you'd like."
At the mention of Pam, and of course catching the implication of what Pam's "videos" included by Carla's and Eric's expressions, Sookie asked hesitantly, "Uh, at the risk of sounding like an idiot can I ask what kind of photos and videos you specialize in?"
"Sapphic and Glamour," Carla answered without hesitation.
Leaning close to Eric Sookie whispered, "That means what I think it means, doesn't it?"
"Most certainly," Eric laughed.
Looking up at Eric who was grinning broadly down at her, Sookie hissed, "These are naked photos aren't they?"
"You never stipulated that you had to be clothed when we made our deal. You agreed to a photo and that's what I'm getting. Really, Sookie, you need to start anticipating things like this from me."
"Eric! I'm not taking my clothes off and letting you get a picture of me!"
"Oh yes you are. You promised me a photo and this is what I want. Remember me warning you to make sure you know exactly what you're agreeing to before you make a deal with me? Well you should have listened. You promised and I will collect."
Seeing the blush on Sookie's face Carla laughed as well and offered, "Pam told me you're quite the southern lady and would be really uncomfortable with all of this. I can assure you that I am quite capable of taking tasteful photos. You'll be pleased with the outcome."
Grabbing Eric's hand Sookie said, "If you'll excuse us for a moment." She turned and dragged him out of the building as Thor scrambled to catch up. "Absolutely not! I can't believe you expect me to take pictures like that!"
"I do expect, and you will," Eric said as he stared down at his bonded.
"Oh no I won't!"
Arching a brow Eric countered, "Want to bet?"
"Eric, I can't do this!"
"Of course you can. It's just a photo. It will only be the three of us in there."
"Eric, I can barely get the nerve up to get naked around you let alone a total stranger!"
Rolling his eyes Eric replied, "Sookie, your body is nothing to be ashamed of. You could stand to put on a little weight and flesh out a bit. of course, but you have a beautiful body. I assure you that woman will appreciate it almost as much as I."
Crossing her arms over her chest Sookie hissed, "Oh I'm certain of that. She's already had a few fantasies about me in her head … and I'm not doing it."
"Yes. You. Are."
Stomping her foot Sookie cried, "You can't ask this of me!"
"Your mistake is in thinking it's a request. You already agreed to this and I'm demanding you hold up your end of the bargain, unless, of course, you'd like the alternative?"
"What's the alternative?"
"You're not allowed to wear clothes at all while we're alone at home from this point forward."
Mouth dropping open in shock Sookie gasped, "You wouldn't make me do that!"
Arching his brow again Eric purred, "Oh wouldn't I? Rest assured I'd be as equally naked …. we could be like Adam and Eve."
Sookie held Eric's gaze and saw the unwavering determination in his eyes and let out a sigh as she asked, "Is there any way I can get out of this?"
"I'm going to get you for this," Sookie hissed as she jerked the door open and stomped back inside.
Behind her Eric chuckled and replied, "I look forward to it."
As they came to a stop before the counter again Carla asked, "So you're deciding to go for it?"
Clearly unhappy, Sookie grumbled, "No choice really."
"Excellent. Head on back and take a look at the sets to see if one catches your eye," Carla said before focusing on Eric. "You can wait out here."
"I don't think so," Eric replied. "I'm going to watch."
"No, you're not. This is my studio and I've never allowed a man in the back before and I don't intend to start now. This is her photo and I don't want you interfering with it. She'll pick her set and be comfortable with what she wants. You'll wait out here," Carla explained.
Eric's fangs popped out and he took a threatening step towards the woman before Sookie put a hand on his chest and whispered, "Eric, please don't!"
Without looking down at his bonded Eric hissed at Carla, "No one orders me woman!"
Knowing she needed to calm him down quickly Sookie begged, "Eric … please let it go … it … it would be easier for me if you waited up here. You know how nervous I get, please?"
Eric stared hard at the woman for a moment longer before meeting Sookie's pleading gaze. Feeling her worry through the bond and the truth of her statement that she would be more comfortable if he wasn't watching he finally agreed, "If it will be easier for you to do this with me waiting up front than I shall allow it." Raising his gaze to meet Carla's he continued, "But if you ever speak to me like that again, bloodbag, I'll drain you and toss your corpse into the bayou."
"Eric!" Sookie gasped.
Carla simply smiled and laughed, "Pam was right about you." Focusing on Sookie she said, "Well come on, darlin'. Let's get started."
Sookie watched Eric take a seat in one of the metal chairs with Thor at his feet and whispered, "Thank you."
"Just remember to smile," Eric replied.
Sookie followed Carla into the back of the spacious studio. There were about eight different sets and most of them had a bed of some sort which had Sookie's stomach in knots. Carla led her to the very back and said, "Why don't you tell me what kind of photo you'd like to have?"
"Well, it's for Eric."
"No it's not. Every photo is for the person in it. You're just choosing to share it with him. He might be the recipient but the photo itself won't be good unless you like it. So what kind of photo do you want?"
Biting her lip Sookie whispered, "I'm not comfortable with having a photo of me that … shows everything, but Eric won't let me keep any clothes on."
Smiling at that Carla replied, "Don't you worry about a thing, sweetheart. I'll make sure you get a photo you're happy with and one that he will be too." Taking Sookie's hand Carla led her to the set that was a giant bed of red rose petals and said, "I really think with your skin tone and hair color, you'd look best against red."
"That's his favorite color."
"Well then he'll like it. Now there's a changing room right over there and there's a robe in there. Why don't you go get ready and I'll get my equipment set up here. Come on over when you're done."
Five minutes later Sookie stood beside the large bed of roses in a white silk robe with nothing else on underneath. The studio was dark except for the lights highlighting the roses and Carla had put on a CD player with some sort of Celtic music playing softly from a stereo by the wall. It wasn't loud more of a soothing background. With her arms wrapped around her waist Sookie looked at Carla, who was fiddling with something on the expensive looking camera attached to a small crane, and whispered, "I … I'm ready."
Carla smiled at Sookie and instructed, "Ok. I'm going to close my eyes. You take off your robe and get on the roses on your back. Pour some of the petals over the areas you want covered and then tell me when you're ready for me to open my eyes. Ok?"
Realizing the woman was honestly trying to make her as comfortable as possible and allowing her to get a picture that wouldn't show more than she was ok with Sookie smiled and said, "Ok, thank you for this."
"No problem, sweetheart. I want you to like this picture as much as that man out there will. This is about you." Carla closed her eyes and continued, "Go ahead."
As soon as Carla's eyes were closed Sookie dropped her robe and stepped onto the large bed of roses. She marveled at the silky feel of them against her feet as she situated herself in the center on her back and then scooped up some handfuls to cover her private areas. When she was covered she said, "Ok … I'm ready."
Opening her eyes, Carla smiled at the sight of Sookie and offered, "This is definitely the set for you. So I'm going to get the crane in position. This is a digital camera with video feed. I can capture individual images and video on it. I'm using it for photos right now. I'll use this monitor here to check the image and take the photo. We'll take about 20 to 40 different shots and from those we'll pick the best one. Ok?"
Carla moved the crane into place with the camera directly over Sookie. Using the hand control and watching the monitor she focused the image of Sookie and zoomed out a bit as she instructed, "Ok. I'm going to come over there and fix your hair and a few of the petals if that's ok with you?"
"Uh … ok."
Carla stepped carefully next to Sookie and crouched down to spread the girl's curls out around her head and sprinkled a few of the petals among them. She brushed a few of the petals from Sookie's chest so that only her breasts were covered and not her shoulders and collar bone. She fixed her stomach the way she wanted and then said, "Ok. Drape one arm over your head and then put the other one on your stomach with your fingers mixing with the petals." When Sookie had done as she asked, Carla nodded. "Great. I'll check the image and we'll get started."
Returning to the monitor Carla smiled at the image and assured, "That's perfect. Now smile softly. If you actually like that man out there, and you should switch to women if you do, think about him and smile."
"He kind of grows on you."
"I'll take your word for it. Relax and smile darlin'."
When Sookie complied Carla pressed the button on the remote control to work the camera and remarked, "That is simply perfect. These are going to be beautiful." She snapped a few more and then instructed, "Now tilt your head a little to the left still holding your smile … little more to the left … perfect." She snapped a few more before stepping back from the monitor and saying, "You know with that cute black puppy you have out there he'd look really nice next to you … you interested?"
Not moving much Sookie replied, "I actually wanted a picture of him. I planned to have my clothes on, of course, but this will be ok … you won't mind?"
"Not at all. He seems pretty well behaved so go ahead and call him back. We'll see how it goes."
Smiling at that Sookie called out, "THOR!" A moment later you could hear the click of dog nails against the concrete floor as Thor came barreling towards Sookie. Before he could mess up the bed of petals she ordered, "Easy puppy, slow down, Thor."
Thor did as ordered and slowed his run to a walk. He sniffed at the flower petals suspiciously for a moment before picking his way through them to lick at Sookie's face. Carla snapped photos continuously as she'd learned in film school the best way to get photos with animals was for them to behave natural and just keep shooting and hope you got a really good shot. The puppy's black studded collar and platinum tag gleamed against his fur and the red backdrop of the roses as Sookie laughed at the feel of his tongue on her face.
For the next ten minutes Carla worked with Sookie and Thor and managed to capture some great shots before she finally said, "Well I think that's about all the shots we're going to get with this set. So we're done, unless you'd like to try another one?"
"No. I think this is enough for me."
"Alrighty then." Closing her eyes Carla instructed, "You just grab your robe and head on back to the changing room and I'll get started on preparing these on a disk for you to view to find the one you want. Since it's a digital camera I can load them on the computer and print them out in a matter of minutes. By the time you're dressed I'll have them all on a disk and you and your man up there can go through them and see which ones you want printed out. I have a professional printer here and can have any size you want done."
"Thank you so much for this," Sookie said as she stood from the rose petals and brushed them off before putting her robe on.
"No problem. That's my job," Carla said as she retrieved the memory stick from the camera after lowering it down from the crane and headed for her computer.
Ten minutes later, Sookie stood beside Eric in Carla's office as she put the images they'd taken on a large screen on the wall and said, "Now I have them set on a slide show right now. You just tell me which ones you want to keep, and I'll mark them. Then you can decide what sizes you want and I'll print them out. It's an extra $20 for me to frame them, and $100 if you want any of them made into a portrait."
"Begin," Eric ordered as he set his hands on Sookie's hips. They stood together as the first image of Sookie appeared. She was on her back on the rose petals with some of them covering her body in a tasteful manner as she smiled secretively up at the camera. "That one," Eric purred as his cock hardened. He'd had an idea as to what the pictures would look like since he'd heard their conversation from the front, but envisioning it and seeing it were two different things. 'She's gorgeous,' he thought, as his hands tightened on her hips.
Carla marked the picture on the computer from where she sat at her desk and clicked to the next. It was much the same as the last one as were the following three then came the one with Sookie's body turned a bit to the side with her legs bent a bit and Eric told her he wanted that one marked as well. He had several other poses marked until they came to the photos of Sookie and Thor.
The first one had Sookie's eyes closed as she arched off the rose petals while Thor licked at her neck and was obviously tickling her. "That one," Eric ordered huskily as he was clearly becoming aroused by the photos. Carla marked it and flipped to the next which showed Sookie's head turned to the side as she continued laughing while Thor licked at her ear. "That one too." She marked it and continued. The next photo showed Thor nuzzling under Sookie's chin as she smiled up at the camera and stroked his back while her other arm lay positioned above her head. "That one also." The next photo showed Thor lying pressed against Sookie with his head on her breast and the roses covering it while she pet his side and smiled up at the camera. "This one." It was marked and they moved on to the next photo.
All in all, Eric had almost twenty photos marked and selected to have printed out. When they came to the end of the slide show Sookie looked up at him and said, "We agreed on one photo, not 17."
"But you looked so good in all of them," Eric purred as he nuzzled her cheek.
Turning around to look up at him she asked, "What will you give me to let you have all of them instead of the one we agreed on?"
"What do you want?"
Smiling at that Sookie said, "We can discuss that at home. For now, how about you pick your favorite to go on your desk and I'll keep the rest. I'll trade them to you when we get home."
Eric laughed, "You are getting entirely too good at negotiating."
"I'm learning from the best."
Eric thought about which picture he'd like the most and finally decided that since he fully intended to get all 17 he would simply go with the first one. "I'll take the first one in an 8x10 in a black frame."
Carla printed it out and put it in a black frame then saved all the other images onto a disk and handed it to Sookie after Eric took his photo.
"All the other 16 images are on here. You can take it to any photo place and they can print out the pictures any size you want or you can bring it back here and I'll do it. It was a pleasure working with you Sookie Stackhouse. Come back anytime." Flicking her gaze to Eric, she added, "And feel free to come alone."
Eric glared at the woman and took Sookie's hand to lead her out of the studio while she stuffed the CD case in her purse. "Insufferable vermin. If she hadn't taken such good photos of you, I'd ruin her business and drive her into bankruptcy."
"Eric! You are so mean!"
He just smiled at her as they both got into the car. As it was their date night and he'd gotten his photo he turned to her and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"What are you hungry for?"
"Seafood it is. Have you ever been to Jane Marie's on Cross Lake?"
"No, but I've heard about it. They play music there while you eat right?"
"Yes. It's a nice place, and has the kind of cooking you like. You'll enjoy it. I know the owner so they'll let us bring Thor inside."
Rolling her eyes, Sookie said, "Is this another woman that is going to be glaring daggers at me because she resents me being with you?"
"She's happily married."
Thirty minutes later, they were being escorted to their table. Eric glared at the waiter that stared a little too long at Sookie's chest and said, "Leave her the menu and go. When you come back to take her order don't look at what's not yours to gaze upon, boy."
After the waiter was gone, Sookie kicked Eric under the table and hissed, "Don't you have any manners?"
"I didn't like the way he was looking at you."
"So that means you can be rude to him?"
"His mere existence is reason enough for me to be rude to him. His eyes on you were justification for bodily harm, but I held myself back. Where's your appreciation for that?"
Glaring at him, she flicked the menu open angrily. "You are far too used to getting your way…and you are leaving him a really nice tip for scaring him like that."
Eric simply laughed and sat back in his chair as he watched Sookie scan the menu. The candle on the table caused her skin to glow and he thought, 'When I turn her she will no longer be bright like the sun. Her skin will be pale like mine. I won't like that. I enjoy how her skin shines and glows with life from her love of the light.' Realizing where his thoughts were headed he mentally shook himself out of such a silly notion. 'It is a small price to pay for having her for eternity.'
After deciding what she wanted Sookie set her menu off to the side of the table and looked at Eric who was obviously staring at her. Raising her hand to her cheek she asked, "Do I have something on my face?"
"Then why are you staring at me like that?"
"Because you're beautiful."
Sookie blushed and looked away as she whispered, "Thank you."
"Why do you always look away when someone compliments you?"
Forcing herself to meet his gaze again Sookie shrugged and replied, "I don't know. I just do."
"Stop it. Don't look away from me. Few people have the courage to hold my gaze let alone be welcomed to. I don't want you to look away from me when we talk. If you had the courage to hold my gaze when I was hunting you then you should have the courage to hold it now that I've caught you."
She couldn't help but smile at that. "You think I have courage?"
"I know it."
Eric smiled as well and said, "You have courage that matches mine. I saw it the first time you came to Fangtasia, and you have shown it every moment since then. You might not have that much common sense but you have courage aplenty."
Before Sookie could answer, the waiter returned and made sure to look only at Eric as he asked if they were ready to order. Sookie rolled her eyes as Eric said he'd take a Royalty Blend and flashed his fangs at the man that was now shaking while Sookie asked for a caesar salad, the salmon plate and an ice tea. The waiter scrambled off and she kicked Eric under the table again, making sure not to hit Thor who was lying under the table as well. "Stop scaring people—and I do too have common sense!"
Eric laughed at that. "Sookie, you are too funny sometimes."
"I wasn't trying to be funny. I'll admit I've made a few rash decisions, but that doesn't mean I don't have common sense."
Taking her hand to trace patterns in her palm, Eric said, "Sookie, the fact you came into my bar in the dress in the first place shows you had no common sense. Had that raid not taken place you never would have made it home that night. I would have taken you, and once I'd had you, I never would have let you go, much the same way I'll never let you go now. The fact you stood up to me when you came to read minds looking for my thief and further peaked my interest instead of simply doing as I asked shows you have no common sense. The fact you slapped me and made demands of me while in nothing more than a t-shirt, when you knew I wanted you, shows you have no common sense. The fact you didn't run as far and as fast as you could from me the moment you figured out I wanted you shows you have no common sense. You have plenty of courage, Sookie, enough to fuel an entire army, but common sense? Not enough to fill a thimble."
Sookie was about to answer when the waiter brought their drinks; her sweet tea and his Royalty Blend. As he took a sip of his synthetic blood Sookie asked, "What did you think of me the first time you met me? Be truthful."
"I'll tell you if you tell me."
"I saw you talking to Pam the second you stepped into Fangtasia. You were so bright in my dark bar. You glowed like the sun in that white dress. My first thought was what the hell were you doing with Compton? You were obviously too good for him. My second thought was if you tasted as good as you looked? As soon as I caught your scent I knew you'd be delicious. I watched you the entire time you were there. I saw you speak to Long Shadow and sit at the table with Bill. I pretended I wasn't eyeing you but once Pam came to me and told me your name and that you were not only a virgin but unmarked, I knew I'd be taking you from Bill."
"You guys can really smell that?"
"Yes we can."
Blushing at that Sookie shook her head and said, "That is so invasive! But go on."
Watching Sookie sip on her tea, Eric continued, "As Bill brought you before me you never once looked away. You held my gaze and that intrigued me. Many vampires can't hold my stare for long let alone a human. I kept looking at you move towards me in that dress like a virgin sacrifice and all I could think about was throwing you over my shoulder and taking you into my office to ravage you. I was already planning all the ways I was going to deflower you and introduce you to the delights of sex as Bill brought you to a stop before my throne. I was hard for you and when your scent hit me over the stench of all the vermin around you I damn near came in my pants. That's why I growled your name before Bill could introduce you."
Sookie's eyes widened and she gasped, "Oh my gosh!"
"Indeed. I've never been affected by someone's scent so much in all my life. Even the scent of fairies, which is extremely intoxicating to vampires, hasn't affected me so. I knew I was going to take you but first I had to see why you were asking questions."
"So you interrogated me."
"Yes. The moment you sat down you were lost to me…truthfully the moment you walked into my bar you were going to end up in my bed, but it is the words you spoke to me that sealed your fate in my desire to keep you for longer than a night or two."
"Because you spoke what was on your mind."
"Why was that such a big deal?"
Eric laughed and replied, "Sookie, you are in people's minds all the time. Surely you know that few people actually say what they think? Most tailor their responses to what they believe others want to hear. You didn't. Pam and I both provoked you in our own way and you not only stood up for yourself but gave back just as good as you got, it was refreshing and interesting."
"And that's bad?"
"For you it was. For me it has worked out wonderfully … Sookie, vampires live very boring lives. After the first century or two everything is usual. There are few things that can draw our attention let alone hold it. We've lived too long to be surprised by much so when something does interest us we tend to latch onto it. Most of the time our interest fades quickly as the novelty wears off, but you are different. You never cease to interest, amuse, entertain, delight, and excite me. You are unlike any person or creature I've ever met before and anytime you're near I can't look away from you. Even when you're not around I find myself thinking about you. It has been that way from the start and only gets worse. You make my world brighter, and I like that."
Blushing, but wanting to find out what else he'd thought of her at first, Sookie pressed on, "So the first night we met you thought I was pretty and interesting?"
"Not to mention your scent was delicious as well, which is important to vampires with our very sensitive noses. Your responses to my questions delighted me the most. You were so bold. I could scent your uncertainty, but never fear. Apprehension at times, but for the most part you stood your ground. A small woman like you in that dress standing up to me in my own bar smelling like sunshine and sweetness and definitely a virgin? How could I not be interested? Then you gave me a glimpse of that delightful talent of yours and it was all over for you beyond me just wanting to use you for entertainment. Then I wanted to find out more about you than just the pleasures your body could provide me. You were the whole package. By the end of the night that you indicated Long Shadow as the thief I'd already decided to make you my child."
"I thought you said it was in Dallas you decided to do that?"
Shaking his head Eric replied, "No. In Dallas I decided to make you my companion. I decided to blood bond you to me so that once I turned you you'd never be able to leave me. I'd already decided to turn you before then."
Sookie was silent a moment before Eric asked, "What did you think of me?"
After taking a sip of her tea Sookie answered, "I thought you were the most beautiful man I'd ever seen."
A look of pure satisfaction crossed his features and Eric purred, "Do tell."
Rolling her eyes at his arrogance Sookie said, "Don't let that head get any bigger, Eric. You're beautiful and you know it. Anybody can tell you that."
"Your opinion is more important than anyone else's, however it surprises me you thought me attractive but did not smell of arousal when near me."
"I didn't say I was attracted to you that night."
"You said I was beautiful."
"You are. Like I said, that's just a plain ol' fact."
"But you weren't attracted to me?"
Clearly surprised, Eric asked, "Explain this to me."
After taking another drink of her tea, Sookie began, "Well I've spent my whole life inside people's heads. As cliché as it sounds I've learned never to judge a book by its cover. Attraction isn't based on looks for me. It's based on everything else. A person can be gorgeous on the outside and hideous on the inside. I've seen and felt that my whole life. I need more than a pretty face to be attracted to a person."
Eric couldn't help but smile. "This pleases me. All the women I have ever been with have always come to me for my looks first. Many stayed because they found out about my power afterwards, but I know this isn't what attracts you to me. So what does interest you about me?"
"We're not talking about that. We're talking about what I thought about you in the beginning."
"Ok. We'll come back to what it is you like about me…continue."
"I thought you were beautiful … and I thought you were definitely the type of boy mothers warned their daughters about and I should watch myself around you."
He threw his head back and laughed. The people around them looked their way and Thor poked his head out from under the table. Sookie pat her puppy's head while Eric laughed, "Oh I'm definitely that type, but I'm all man, Sookie. Keep going."
"I thought you were dangerous and too full of yourself. Pretty people tend to be. The way Bill kept acting around you made me nervous, but the way you kept looking at me made me want to kick you."
"It's a good thing you didn't. I would have tracked you down after the raid was over and dragged you back to my lair if you had. Your gumption that night had already caught my interest but if you'd actually kicked me I definitely would have had to have you right then."
Sookie shrugged and replied, "Doesn't matter now. Anyway, that first night I thought you were beautiful, dangerous, and arrogant. The night with Long Shadow I pretty much thought those same things just in greater quantities … and I had added jerk to the list."
"In Dallas my thoughts and feelings towards you changed a lot. When you came for me in the church and I saw you bow before Godric I wondered who he could be to you to bring you to your knees. When I realized he was your Maker and why you had been so obsessed with me coming to Dallas I understood that there was more to you than you showed people. You cared. When you offered yourself to Newlin for me I was shocked. I didn't understand why you did that. You were changing right in front of me and I didn't know what you were changing into."
"Were you pleased with the changes you saw?"
"Yes. Deep down I was glad you weren't the self absorbed jerk Bill insisted you were and you portrayed yourself as. I was glad there was more to you than that. Of course, I thought you were a conniving jerk for that whole blood trick you pulled on me."
"Totally worth it."
She rolled her eyes and continued, "Then came the next night and morning." She watched as Eric's fingers tightened around his bottle of Royalty Blend while she turned his other hand over in hers. She copied the patterns he'd traced on her palm as best she could as she whispered, "What I saw then, I knew you had depths that I couldn't imagine. It's like I finally realized that you were a thousand years old and there was no way I could even begin to understand everything that made you who you are. You've lived through things, seen things, done things, survived things that few have and they've made you who you are and as a 25 year old barmaid from Bon Temps, Louisiana I didn't have the right to judge with the limited knowledge of you I had … I still thought you were a jerk, but figured you probably had reasons for being that way."
Eric stared at her for a moment before pulling his hand from hers to take hold of her wrist and pull her close to him. Leaning forward he kissed her lips softly and whispered huskily, "I'll show it all to you Sookie. Every part of me, but there is good as well as bad. If you can't take it tell me now and I'll hide as much as I can. There are some memories, some things I've done, that will terrify you … but some that will please you."
Setting her hand on his cheek to return his gentle kiss with one of her own Sookie replied, "As you said, Eric, I've got an overabundance of courage and lack of common sense when it comes to you. I'd rather have all of you than pieces. I don't want you to hide anything from me … but maybe you could alternate between the good and bad so you don't overwhelm me?"
He smiled at that and kissed her again. "Our deal will stand Sookie. You tell me about yourself and I'll tell you about myself … and the darkest shadows of my past will be revealed only when I know you're ready to hear them."
Soon after, Sookie's dinner arrived and they simply sat and listened to the live music playing while Sookie ate. Afterwards, Eric paid their tab and they headed back for Bon Temps to spend the rest of the evening alone. Sookie was able to convince Eric to swing by Wal-Mart so she could pick up some more fish food for little Eric (He was highly offended she'd chosen to name a fish after him and insisted she change it. She refused.) after she swore up and down that she wouldn't embarrass him while they were inside, and he only agreed to go inside since it was a different Wal-Mart from the one she'd degraded him at the first time.
Eric also bought more than a dozen movies to keep at Sookie's house since her selection was limited to romances. After that they made their way home. Once they were inside and were settling down on the couch to watch Bad Boys II Eric brought up the other photos.
"So what do you want to trade me for the other photos?" Eric asked as they lounged on the couch.
Sookie had changed into her white chiffon nightgown with the blue ribbon. She figured she could use every advantage she could get in order to talk some sense into Eric about her working. She let her eyes trail over his form. He was only in a pair of black hamakas he'd changed into since he intended to do his exercise routine after she went to bed; of course he'd hold her until she fell asleep like usual. Knowing the direct approach was best Sookie asked, "How good a mood are you in?"
Arching a brow Eric asked, "That big?"
"Well in answer to your question I'm in a very good mood, but I'd be in a better mood if you kissed me."
Shaking her head at his boyish smile Sookie leaned over and cupped his face as she kissed both his cheeks, his forehead, the tip of his nose, his chin, his closed eyelids, and finally his lips. She lingered a bit there before finally pulling back and saying, "You got eight."
Before she could pull back, Eric grabbed her wrist and pulled her forward to capture her lips with his own. This was no gentle caress as she'd done. This was hot and possessive. His tongue stroked forcefully against hers leaving her with no doubt as to the passion he felt for her. His fangs scraped her lips as he slanted his mouth over hers again and again while pulling her into his lap to press tightly against his bare chest. His hand trailed up the smooth expanse of her leg and thigh as he growled into the kiss. Only when he knew he had to pull back or risk going farther than she was ready for did he release her. When she buried her face into his neck and panted for breath as her body trembled with barely contained need he purred, "Nine … want to go for an even ten?"
Breathing heavily against his neck Sookie whispered, "Not if I want to keep my mind; you make me forget all my thoughts when you do that."
"Good. Many of your thoughts take you away from me, and I like you here better."
Stroking her fingers over his muscular chest Sookie replied, "It's not so bad here right now. You have your moments were you're bearable."
"Good to know, now tell me what it is you wish to trade for the other photos now that you've got me in a good mood."
"I want to go to work tomorrow."
Eric stiffened and growled, "No, we've discussed this. You will remain inside the barrier during the day where it is safe until the sun sets and I can come to you."
Kissing his neck softly Sookie pressed, "Please Eric. I'll have my guards and—"
"Do not push me on this Sookie." Eric tightened his arms around her waist and nipped her shoulder as he continued, "You nearly died a few days ago. It will not happen again. It was foolish of me to allow you such freedom of movement or allow you to be so exposed during the day once I learned there was a threat to you in the first place. I've been shown the error of my ways and refuse to make the same mistake twice. You will be safe."
Stroking her fingers over his Mjolnir, Sookie soothed, "I know. You can make it safe for me, Eric. I only need the guards during the day now since I'm with you, Ivan and Han during the nights. Three of my Were guards can go to the bar ahead of time to make sure it's safe and then the rest of them can escort me there in my bulletproof car you got me. I'd be there with all seven Weres, and you know how vigilant they are. I'm also working from 10-5 and those are our lightest shifts. We get maybe 30 people in there all day and I'm off by 5 before the dinner rush hits. I'd be safe, and if there was a problem you could come for me like you did before, but there won't be. I'll be safe Eric. You hired all these people to keep me safe. You're protecting me."
"It's too dangerous."
"It's Merlotte's, Eric. I'll go straight there and come straight home. I'll have Quinn pull right up to the door so I can go right in. I won't leave the building or the sight of my guards the whole time. It's not like we need to worry about a sniper. This guy that is after me wants me alive right? So he's not going to try and kill me. Two of my guards are always hidden so they'll be able to see everyone pulling up to Merlotte's and you know the guards spread out inside to keep watch. I'll be perfectly safe."
When Eric was silent she continued to stroke her fingers softly over his Mjolnir and whispered, "Please, Eric please let me have this. I'll be perfectly safe. I promise I'll go straight there and straight back. Please let me have this."
Moving to situate Sookie so she was straddling his lap Eric replied, "I will let you have this on several conditions."
"First, you will continually scan not only every human in the bar but the surrounding area to make sure no one is sneaking up on you."
"Next, you will take absolutely no chances. The second something seems off to you, one of your guards is uncomfortable with something, someone you don't know comes into the bar, anything, you leave. You come straight home."
"Third, you will go straight there and come right back. No stops under any circumstances. You don't even stop for gas. You make sure the tank is full before you leave, and if it's not you send one of your guards with the car to fill it up."
"Fourth, I will hire four additional Weres from Alcide's pack to see to your safety outside of the barrier."
Sookie thought about arguing that point, thinking it kind of excessive, but decided against it. She was lucky Eric was willing to compromise on this point at all considering what had happened in New York, and didn't want to mess it up. Besides if they had sent so many people last time they could send more this time. Ahmose had mentioned the only reason so many had been sent to his house was because of how remote it was so she hoped that whoever was after her wouldn't send a small army to Merlotte's. "I'm ok with that."
Stroking his hands along her hips Eric insisted, "One thing, one thing, goes wrong and I'll lock you in my lair so no one can ever get to you again. Do you understand?"
Nodding her head Sookie leaned forward to kiss his lips softly before saying, "Nothing is going to go wrong, and thank you for this."
"Oh I'm not doing it out of the kindness of my heart, little one. I want my photos."
Laughing Sookie got up from his lap and went to retrieve the disk from her purse. As she handed it to him she said, "A deal's a deal."
Taking the disk, Eric twirled it in his fingers and replied, "Most certainly. I'm going to have one of these pictures blown up into a portrait and hung in my lair and then another in my office."
"What! No you're not! You can hang one up in your lair but not in your office! Everyone would see it!"
"They'd have seen the photo on my desk as well."
"Yeah but not some huge portrait of me on the wall! Most people wouldn't even see the photo unless they were around the side where you sit and few people have the nerve to sit back there, but if you blow up a picture of me and hang it on the wall everyone will see it!"
"Exactly, especially Compton. As the area investigator he's going to be in my office a lot and the thought of him having to see the photo I'm intending to blow up on my wall like that … damn that makes me smile."
"Eric! You can't do this!"
"It's that or no work for you, take your pick."
Plopping down on the opposite end of the couch with a huff Sookie glared at him and said, "Fine, put your damn portrait up!"
"I intend to. I'll hang it on the wall in front of my desk and look at you whenever I want. In fact I think I'll have one of these blown up to life size and hung in my lair."
"Aren't you going to be jealous of other people looking at me? You get all upset when they do it in person."
"Those pictures are too beautiful to not display. I thought I wanted to be able to see every part of your body but I like these much more. They're art and I want them on the wall, besides it's as close as anyone else is going to get to seeing you naked, unless you've changed your mind about wanting a female companion?"
"No! And I'm tired of talking about this, you got your stupid pictures. Let's just watch the movie."
"Very well." Eric picked up the remote and pulled Sookie to his side. She rested her head on his chest as they both settled down to watch Bad Boys II.
The next few weeks passed quickly. Sookie was able to work her Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shifts for Sam with the advanced security measures that Eric employed. She was only allowed to go to Merlotte's though and other than that she had to come straight home. She kept up with her lessons and was advancing very quickly. Ken was very impressed with her progress and told her as much. Her piano instructor also complemented Sookie on her quick skill. Julie told Sookie she was picking up on riding so well that she would be able to ride during the week without supervision within another month. The only problem Sookie seemed to have was with her Swedish lessons. She was memorizing the words and picking up on the rules of the language but she was having a big problem with her pronunciation. Eric would work with her at night but usually ended up laughing at her horrible elocution to which she responded by pinching him or hitting him with a pillow.
At night, Bill continued to bring Selah around, Jessica had told him that he needed to stick with it and Sookie would cave and a number of other women he'd glamoured for information had told him that jealousy was the best way to drive Eric and Sookie apart as well, but Eric, Ivan, Han and Pam kept Sookie so entertained between her readings at the club she didn't really have a chance to focus on her former boyfriend and his latest squeeze. Eric had arranged for a massive copy of one of the photos she'd had taken to be framed and hung in his office by Tuesday night when the club opened again. It was the one of her by herself in the roses smiling up at the camera. He'd switched out the smaller one on his desk with one of her and Thor. Bill glared at it and made snide comments to Eric over the picture, but Sookie ignored them both. She got to work during the day so it didn't bother her as much as it should. Besides, her private places were covered up. Pam insisted it was just mean of Eric for him to tease everyone about what they couldn't have, but Eric simply laughed.
Overall, the weeks passed quickly as Sookie and Eric fell into a comfortable routine with each other. Strangely, Eric hadn't touched a woman since moving in with her, and really hadn't given much thought to it. The sexual tension between him and Sookie had him giving himself relief in the shower when she was asleep more often than not, but, on the whole, he was enjoying being around her far too much to even want to leave her to find a woman that wouldn't satisfy him anyway.
The Go game he'd ordered her arrived but he insisted he'd teach her when they left for Sweden. Sookie dragged Eric to Color Me Mine again one night and he painted a vase for Pam while she painted a plate with Isis's symbol for Ahmose. Eric sent it express for her and the very next day Ahmose phoned Fangtasia with a request to speak to Sookie which Eric granted. Ahmose thanked Sookie profusely for the plate and told her it was hanging in his temple. He told her that it had been well over a thousand years since he'd received so thoughtful a gift and would cherish it always. She thought that was nice.
Eric also spoke with Niall on the phone through the number that was left to him by the Prince, and told him that Sookie wanted to speak with him about her parents and Brigant assured him he would, after they got back from Sweden. Eric broke that news to Sookie as carefully as he could, but she took it better than he expected. Sookie said as long as her great grandfather did intend to speak with her and give her answers she was willing to wait. Eric assured her that Niall had said he'd explain everything once they got back so Sookie let it go for now.
Soon enough though it was December 1st and it was time for Sookie and Eric to head to Sweden. They had decided to travel during the day since Eric would be able to protect them if he needed to and that way Sookie could sleep on the plane ride as well and they'd land at night and be able to visit Haldar who was the king of Sweden. Sookie was very interested in meeting him as Eric told her he was once a Viking too, though made about 300 years after him and near the end of the Viking age, and after Christianity was already adopted by his people. The way Eric spoke of the man told her they knew each other well, and Eric liked him. So of course she wanted to meet him.
The entire night before they were to leave Sookie checked, double checked, and triple checked their baggage while Eric laughed at her. She told him it was the first real vacation she'd ever had and she wanted to make sure it went perfectly. Eric simply laughed at her and pulled her in for a kiss as he promised he would make sure she had the best time of her life, and that they'd have many vacations over the years. He'd also spoken with the Council and Niall at length about the security measures that were going to be taken. Only Han and Ivan were flying with them. As there was very little daylight time in Sweden at the moment due to the season and since Eric intended to keep Sookie so busy at night she wouldn't be able to stay awake during the day. Therefore she'd be asleep with him in his protected room at Haldar's home. Eric decided the first two days of their vacation they'd spend in Stockholm so he could show Sookie what he considered to be the greatest city in the world, and then he'd take her to his cabin for the remainder of the two weeks.
That was where his talks with the Council came in. Han and Ivan were not going to the cabin with them so it would be just him to protect Sookie. He knew of course now that he could withstand the effects of sunlight and silver that he was more than adequate protection for his bonded with his telekinesis and power as an Enforcer, but he didn't want to endanger her at all. The Council was of the same opinion. From the cryptic words of Niall when he spoke with the man he was certain that his and Sookie's joining was going to take place while they were alone in his cabin and the Council apparently didn't want them disturbed at all. Niall was going to erect a Fey barrier around his home so that while they were inside it no one would be able to enter. They'd be able to leave and enter it at will, but once inside they would be safely secured. Eric was given every assurance by the Council and Niall that his and Sookie's time there was completely for them and they would spend it uninterrupted. He was told to enjoy it because once he came home he was going to be facing one problem after another. Eric didn't care. He'd take on the world if it finally meant having all of Sookie to himself.
While Eric was busy finalizing all their plans for their trip to Sweden, Sookie arranged for Julie to come ride her horses twice a week for her and insisted on paying Tara, Lafayette, and Jason for their time since they were going to look after her house and feed her horses and fish for her while she was gone. She arranged for her shifts at Merlotte's to be covered and promised everyone she'd bring them something back from Sweden.
So December 1st rolled around and Sookie looked out the window as the private Jet they'd chartered landed at a private airstrip just outside of Stockholm. She could hear some rummaging around as Eric and her guards exited their travel coffins since they could feel it was dark outside. She smiled up at Eric as he took her hand and pulled her up from her seat after the plane came to a stop. "It's snowing."
Feeling Sookie's excitement through the bond Eric kissed her cheek before helping her into her fur coat that Ahmose had given her and replying, "I hope you enjoy it. You're going to be surrounded by it while in Sweden … once that cabin door opens you'll get a whole new understanding of the word cold."
Thor was picking up on Sookie's excitement as well and barking at their feet as she said, "I'm ready for it. I'm so excited!"
"I know. I can feel it in you."
"Well I haven't been all over the world like you. Dallas and New York are the only places I've been and those were with you, too … and this is my first vacation."
Picking up the fur cap, gloves, and scarf Eric replied, "I know, but it won't be your last. I will take you to see the whole world. For now you must bundle up."
"Isn't my coat enough?"
Eric shook his head and laughed, "No. Sweden is cold and your extremities will freeze quickly if you don't protect them."
Sookie pulled on the thick gloves while Eric wrapped her neck with the scarf and tucked it into her coat before putting her fur cap on. When she was all bundled she asked, "How cold is cold?"
"You're about to find out," Eric teased. Turning to look at Han and Ivan as the two Enforcers strapped their weapons onto their backs Eric asked, "Are we ready?"
Eric moved forward to open the cabin door and waited for the land crew to push the rolling stairway up to the door before leading Sookie out. As if waiting for them to step outside a gust of wind hit them full force and he laughed as Sookie shrieked and jerked back on his hand.
"Oh my gosh! It's not cold! It's freezing!"
"Negative 10 degrees Celsius so about 14 degrees Fahrenheit," Eric laughed as he tugged Sookie forward while Thor darted down the steps ahead of them to begin running in circles through the snow.
"Eric, let's go to Hawaii!" Sookie said as she buried her face into her coat and scarf and tried not to fall over shaking. Her coat was warm but this weather was ridiculous!
Eric simply laughed and continued to pull Sookie along behind him. "You'll get used to it. You've lived in Louisiana all your life and have never experienced true winter before."
Sweeping his hand out to indicate the snowy area Eric continued, "This is what winter is supposed to be like."
Sookie could tell he loved it and that made her happy. She trudged through the snow dutifully as Eric led her and her guards towards the waiting limos that Haldar had sent. Once they were inside and all their luggage loaded she looked at him and asked, "How did your people survive this kind of weather without electricity and indoor heat?"
Wrapping an arm around her waist to pull her against his side Eric nuzzled her cheek before whispering in her ear, "We found ways to keep each other warm…want me to show you?"
Sookie laughed and replied, "I'll take your word for it." After that she looked out the window as they made their way into Stockholm. The city was lit up and filled with people. "Wow. It's so beautiful. I've never seen a city like this before. All the buildings are so beautiful. Cities in America are nothing like this."
Pleased she found his home country so appealing, Eric explained, "Americans sacrificed aesthetics for expediency. They wanted big buildings to do big business as fast as they could and slapped bricks and concrete together to get it. Over the last few decades they're beginning to appreciate architectural appeal in a city again, but they've paid for their booming industry and growth spurts with crumbling subpar buildings that have no beauty to boast of and make their cities look old and warn."
As they continued on Sookie commented, "There's a lot of water and ice."
"Stockholm is built on a chain of 14 small islands. It's one of the oldest cities in Scandinavia and considered one of the most beautiful in the world."
Hearing the pride in his voice Sookie looked up at him and said, "I think it's beautiful."
"We'll come here often."
"I'd like that."
"It's even better in the spring and summer. You can really see how beautiful the land is then."
The trip to Haldar's home took about an hour and a half through all the traffic. During that time Eric pointed out interesting sights for her and she told him the ones she wanted to see in person to which he promised her he'd take her. Finally, the pulled up to Haldar's home which was located on the outskirts of Stockholm. It was a beautiful red brick building that seemed to take up an entire city block and fit in well with the overall design of the city.
Eric led Sookie inside of the great foyer where Haldar's day woman Sophia met them. She was taller than Sookie with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, but was a little slimmer. Sookie caught from the woman's thoughts that she was in a committed relationship with one of Haldar's Sheriff's and Sookie was glad she didn't have to fight another woman off of Eric.
"Hello. I'm Sophia. One of King Haldar's day people." Turning to Eric she continued, "My lord tells me the two of you are good friends and he's eager to see you again. He says it has been a few years since you've come to visit."
Nodding, Eric replied, "A little over seven. I believe his day person then was John."
"John still works for my lord, but we split the shifts up now that I've been hired. I'll escort you to your rooms so that you can freshen up and when you're ready ring for me and I'll take you to the throne room." Focusing on Sookie Sophia smiled and added, "My lord is quite interested in meeting you."
"You can tell him the feeling is mutual," Sookie replied with a smile.
Sophia led Sookie and Eric to an elevator down the hall and took them up the fourth floor of the building to a light tight room. It was modern in design and Sookie decided she wasn't all that fond of it but since they'd only be here for a few days it would be ok. She was really eager to see Eric's cabin when we went there.
Once inside their room, Sookie grabbed the garment bag containing her dress that Eric had selected for her to be presented to the King in and took over the bathroom to change while he put on a black suit. Her dress was a periwinkle blue that crossed over her chest to cover one shoulder. It had a slit up the side on her right leg and the whole dress was adorned with tiny pearls. There was also a silk shoulder streamer that trailed out behind Sookie as she walked. She had her hair down in curls around her and was wearing the diamond tiffany set that Eric had purchased for her.
Twenty minutes later, they were both ready and found Han and Ivan waiting out in the hall with Sophia. The day woman nodded at them and led the group of four towards the throne room back down on the first floor. Sookie wasn't as nervous this time since Ahmose had delighted her so much. She'd decided that not all Vampire monarchs were as scary and mean as Sophie-Anne. Just as with the last two times she'd entered a vampire's throne room she found herself surrounded with vampires and human pets that were treated no better than cattle. The room was grand and large with a huge golden throne with an eagle atop it in gold. Royal blue carpets led up to the throne and Sookie couldn't decide if she liked the room or not. Eric was sending her waves of comfort through the bond and Sookie found she couldn't help but smile as she caught sight of the King of Sweden sitting on his throne.
He was a big brute of a man. Not quite as tall as Eric probably, but much stockier. He had bright red hair and a beard and lounged on his throne looking completely bored with everything. He was in a deep blue silk shirt with the sleeves rolled up showing his large arms and black leather pants that looked hand made with matching boots. Sookie thought he looked adorable. She couldn't help but laugh as he took notice of them making their way to him and he stood up and threw his arms wide and cried out, "ERIC! Min vän, äntligen är du här igen så vi kan roa oss! Jag dör av tristess och det är alldeles för länge sedan vi sågs." [ERIC! My friend you have finally come to play with me! I am dying of boredom and you have been away too long!]
Eric smirked back at his friend and the King of Sweden and replied, "Skönt att se dig igen du med, Haldar. Jag hoppas att allt går dig väl?" [Good to see you again as well, Haldar. I trust you are faring well?]
"Nej, inte alls. Jag är totallt uttråkad! Du har ju inte varit här på år och dar. Vi vikingar måste hålla ihop, min vän ... ingen av dessa trashankar vet hur man har någe kul," [No! I'm bored! You have not come to entertain me in so long! We Vikings must stick together, my friend … none of these fools know how to have any fun.] Haldar said as he completely forwent protocol and abandoned his throne to make his way towards Eric and Sookie; shoving people out of the way if they didn't move fast enough. Coming to a stop before Eric, Haldar looked down at Sookie and asked, "Så det här är hon som till slut lyckades tämja den sägenomsusade vikingakrigaren, hu?" [So this is the one that has finally tamed the mighty Viking Enforcer of legend eh?]
Wrapping his arm around Sookie's waist as he took one of her arms in his hand to pull her against him Eric laughed, "Ingen kommer någonsin att lyckas tämja mig, gamle vän, men hon har lyckats fånga mitt intresse, och jag har för avsikt att göra henne till min eviga följeslagare." [I'll never be tamed old friend, but she has managed to capture my attention, and I do intend to make her my eternal companion.]
"Då måste hon verkligen vara något speciellt," [Well then she must be something special.] Haldar said still eyeing Sookie. "Låt oss ta en titt." [Let's get a look at her.]
Looking down at Sookie Eric said, "Sookie this is Haldar, King of Sweden. Haldar, this is my bonded Sookie Stackhouse."
Sookie smiled up at the large man and greeted, "It's a pleasure to meet you, your highness."
Haldar just grinned wider. "So proper. At least you're not all bones like so many women these days. Pity they do that to themselves. I can't wait for the trends to change again and women remember they’re supposed to be curvy. You're pretty, though. You read minds like the rumors say?"
Nodding her head Sookie replied, "Enough to know you've slept with every human woman in here, and quite the performance from their memories. The woman Claudia from last night over there in the red dress is praying to God right now that you still want her. She thinks you must be a god yourself to be able to do everything you did to her last night."
There was a moment of silence before Haldar threw his head back and roared with laughter while Eric simply smiled down at Sookie. She was truly beginning to come out of her shell and he loved it! Clapping his hands together Haldar laughed, "Wonderful! I can see why Eric likes you. You've got courage, girl. I like that. So how are you liking Sweden so far?"
"I think it's cold, but the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Of course I've only been to two other cities besides my home town in Louisiana so I don't have much to judge by, but it's still pretty."
"Yes, yes. No land is as grand as my land. Cold is good for you. Keeps you bundled up inside with others eh Eric?" Haldar teased.
"Indeed. I was explaining that very thing in the car to Sookie on the way here," Eric replied.
Haldar focused back on Sookie. "So what has Eric told you of me?"
Smiling brightly, Sookie laughed, "Enough to know you two probably got into far too much trouble for your own good when you got together."
Eric and Haldar laughed long and hard at that before the king said, "Eric, you're lucky you found her first and blood bonded to her! Else I'd have to take her from you."
Eric tightened his hand around her waist perceptibly, "I had to do a little stealing of my own to get her, Haldar, but she's mine for good now."
"You always did take what you wanted and damn everyone else. Is the Viking way!"
Looking down at Thor, he asked, "Why do you have a dog?"
Eric glanced down at the dog as well. "That's Thor, Sookie's puppy. She always wanted one and I wanted her to have a good one."
Haldar looked back and forth between Eric and Sookie for a moment before saying, "Come. Let's catch up. You have abandoned me here to those that don't know the meaning of fun. We shall leave them and you can tell me of all this fuss you and your bonded are raising in the New World. Word reaches me that your queen is not pleased with you and that some vampire hating group over there has it out for you and your bonded. You will tell me of this." Haldar looked over Eric's shoulder at Han and Ivan behind him and said, "I very much want to know about two of the world's greatest Enforcers pledging themselves to a human as well. Interesting that … let's go."
"Uh … your majesty?" a younger vampire offered quietly from the side. When Haldar turned to look at him the vampire continued, "As your advisor, I must remind you that you are holding court currently. Perhaps you can finish with that first and then continue the reunion with your friend from America afterwards?"
Waving his hand dismissively, Haldar scoffed, "Bah! Court is boring and I put up with that enough. Nothing emergent is going on so I'll take care of it later. Eric and his woman are only going to be here for two days so I can postpone all that nonsense until they leave. Tell everyone to go home and come back later." Focusing back on Eric, Haldar continued, "I tell you my friend, if my Maker hadn't asked me to take over the throne for him while he walked the world a bit, I'd say to hell with all this boring talk and politics. He should be back in another decade or so and I can finally get back to living life as a Viking should! One fight and fuck at a time!"
"You always were a vampire of priorities," Eric laughed congenially.
Haldar lead the way out of the hall towards his personal sitting room. "Have to be. If you're not careful these politics will eat all the fun out life. My Maker said he'd only be gone for about century and I'm counting down the days until he returns and retakes this god awful throne from me. I hate ruling. I should be free like the wind! Maybe when he finally comes back I'll come to America and see how you're living life since you've settled down?"
"You will be most welcome," Eric agreed.
Once they were all seated on the brown leather couches in Haldar's sitting room, he asked, "So what's going on with you that's got the whole supe community is such an uproar?"
"Honestly? I don't know. I know the Council is interested in Sookie and I on some big level, but other than that they won't tell us anything."
Nodding his head towards Han and Ivan Eric continued, "They know but they won't talk … supposedly Sookie and I are supposed to figure this out on our own."
Haldar looked at Sookie and asked, "So what are you? Your scent is not entirely human. You smell too good."
Sookie felt Eric tighten his hand around hers a bit and knew he didn't want her telling Haldar much. He may like the man, but not enough to be telling secrets too. "I'm a waitress from Bon Temps. Before you guys came out a few years ago I thought I was the only freak out there with my whole hand … uh gift."
Eric narrowed his eyes at Sookie's words, but was pleased that she recovered before she actually referred to herself as handicapped. He was determined to break her of that habit. "I too have wondered as to her scent … before she met me she didn't know anything other than vampires exist. She has a human mother and father so perhaps Sookie is just lucky in having such a unique and delicious scent along with the bonus of her telepathy."
Haldar sat back on the couch with his arms flung wide as he looked back and forth between the two of them. Finally he smiled and said, "Before she met you, huh? Okay, Eric. Keep your secrets. Just know I'm always ready to lend a sword. Word has it you might need it soon enough."
Stroking Sookie's hand in his with his thumb Eric pressed, "And what words have you heard?"
"I heard your queen is looking to kill you as soon as you handle the Human Martyr threat you have over there, maybe even sooner. Most of the Monarchs on this side of the world are laughing at her stupidity. All know you could have taken that throne from her at any time. I think you're going to be king soon enough despite your desire not to rule … unless of course you're simply going to kill her and move on?"
Eric shook his head. "No. I'll be staying in Louisiana, but I have no intentions of overthrowing my queen. I will simply always continue to do whatever I must to survive."
Laughing again Haldar teased, "Getting political with your answers already." Looking at Sookie he asked, "And what are your thoughts in all of this?"
"I think it sucks. Eric and I are supposed to do something big for the Supernatural Community and this Council of yours knows all about it but won't tell us. Not to mention Sophie-Anne's a bitch," Sookie answered, point blank.
"You are truly a delight! If I thought I stood a chance, I'd fight Eric for you," Haldar laughed.
Pulling Sookie tighter against his hold, Eric stated, "Then it's good you know your limits."
"Indeed I do … so let's see this new gift of yours I've been hearing about," Haldar demanded.
Eric nodded his head and picked up all the furniture in the room including the couches they were all sitting on. Thor was on the rug in the middle of the room and began barking up at them as they twirled around them. Eric began moving them in a circle in the air as he said, "It's a handy little talent isn't it?"
Haldar leaned over on the couch to look at the floor before glancing around the room to watch it move around them as they continue to float in the air. Looking back at Eric he laughed, "You always were a lucky bastard. You have that pretty boy face that woos all the ladies, you can fly, now you have a beautiful companion in training and can move anything you want with your mind. Whatever God smiles on you I need to start worshipping."
Eric smirked as he lowered all the furniture back to the floor in its original place. "It is a nice gift to have." Looking down at Sookie he added, "It keeps things where I want them." He couldn't help but kiss her brow when she glared up at him.
Haldar watched the brief interaction before commenting, "So it's true then. You do care for her." There was silence for as everyone focused on Haldar. He looked back and forth between Sookie and Eric as he continued, "The rumors have been flying all over Europe, but I didn't think they could be true. I've known you for well over 600 years and you've never cared for anyone other than your maker and Pam ... but you care for her don't you? You care about this human."
Sookie looked up at Eric worriedly. She knew that he didn't do well in being confronted with his feelings. 'Please don't let him get mean over this. Please don't let him get mean over this,' she begged in her mind as she waited for him to react.
Eric held Haldar's gaze as his mind raced with the question just asked of him. He trusted Haldar more than he trusted any other Vampire that was not Godric or Pam. He'd known him for centuries and had fought beside him more than once. Haldar was one of the more honorable vampires in the world, but Eric hadn't gotten to where he was in life by trusting others unless absolutely necessary.
The silence in the room stretched out and Eric could feel Sookie's fear growing by the moment and sent her gentle waves of calm and comfort to her in response. Finally he said, "Any that threaten her will die by my hand. She is mine and no one will take her from me. That is all anyone needs to know."
"That's good enough for me. When you figure out what it is you're supposed to do for the Council and need any help you let me know. I've got warriors aplenty here and I myself am itching for a good fight. It's been too long since we've fought together old friend…far too long. You call Haldar if you have need," the Swedish King ordered.
"I will," Eric answered.
Standing Haldar said, "Come friend. I shall show you and your woman my new club. It's called Dragon Ship and is on the water. You'll love it! You can bring the dog if you want."
As Haldar led them through the house, Sookie squeezed Eric's hand in appreciation for him not hurting her feelings when confronted about their relationship. He didn't look down at her but he did squeeze her hand back and that was enough. Behind them, Han and Ivan simply smiled softly at the sight.
|Guest bedroom at Haldar's|
As Eric set her down on the side of the bed while Thor threw himself down on the rug and promptly went to sleep. He knelt down to remove her shoes before pulling off her diamond jewelry as Sookie yawned and said, "I like him."
"He's not mean."
"He can be."
"So can you."
Eric smirked at that and tossed her jewelry on the nightstand before moving to the bathroom to get a wash cloth to clean her makeup off. Sookie simply sat there and closed her eyes as he cleaned her face for her. Haldar had taken them to his club and despite her and Eric being over dressed for the area they had danced together for several hours. Haldar had also taken them to some famous clubs like Berns, Nalen, and Fasching to see live music performances where they continued to dance the night away.
Sookie was amazed that many of the clubs stayed open until 5am and only when the last one they were at closed did they head to a café where Sookie could get some much needed substance while Eric, Haldar, Han, and Ivan spoke in languages she didn't understand about their super secret vampire business. Regardless Sookie thought the night to be one of the best she'd ever had. She'd loved driving through the city and seeing the fantastic sight of it lit at night while listening to Eric and Haldar tell her of its rich history, and she loved dancing with Eric. He moved so gracefully for such a large man. She also loved listening to him laugh as they teased each other throughout the night.
After he was finished cleaning her face off Eric stood and asked, "What nightgown do you want?"
Sookie leaned around him and looked at the suitcases on the opposite side of the room. She decided they were too far away and stood up as she said, "Just give me the shirt you're wearing."
Eric grinned as he pulled his black silk shirt out of his pants and yanked it over his head. He watched Sookie reach behind to unzip her dress and let it drop to the floor before she took his proffered shirt and pulled it over her head before crawling into the bed. Her behavior delighted him. She hadn't even given any thought to the fact she'd shed her clothes in front of him so easily, leaving her in only her panties since she wasn't wearing a bra. 'Of course she's practically falling over asleep too,' he thought in amusement as he kicked off his shoes and socks and shed his pants, leaving him in his boxers so he could climb into bed with her. He was only more pleased when she waited for him to lay down on his back so that she could cuddle against his chest. Wrapping his arms around her and inhaling the sweet scent of her hair he asked, "Did you have fun?"
Smiling softly as she nuzzled his chest, Sookie replied, "I had a great time. You're a really nice dancer."
"You too. What do you want to do tomorrow?"
Sookie was too damn tired to think out her answer or realize the implication of her words and simply responded, "Be with you."
'I need to keep her tired more often,' Eric thought in bemusement. Stroking his fingers through her hair he said, "Then you shall."
Nuzzling his chest Sookie whispered, "Good … 'night Eric."
"Good night min älskade," Eric replied as he kissed the top of her head. He couldn't wait for the coming days. 'She will yield to me soon. I know it. I cannot wait to be inside her.'