The knock on the door startled her. It was nearly 11 at night and visitors were the last thing Sookie expected. Bill was still away and she had convinced Sam she would be safe for ten minutes while he went to lock up Merlotte's. She peered through the side window and was shocked to see who was now taking up a large portion of her front mat. She swung the door open and regarded him for a moment.

"What can I do you for you, Mr. Northman?"

His smile creased his eyebrows as he took in her proud and defiant stance.

"Please, call me Eric. May I come in?"

She hesitated for a moment and then stepped to the side to allow him entrance.

"Come in." She motioned for him to follow her to the kitchen. She took a seat at the kitchen table and offered him to do the same. The skid of the chair across the tile floor echoed through the empty house. "Why have you come? Is it about Bill?" As she said his name she felt her heart sink from her chest.

"He is still…dealing with his sentence. He asked me to see about your well being." She looked at him for a moment and called his bluff.

"I don't think he did. You don't care about me. Why would you take the time?"

Her honesty intrigued him. She felt the tweaks of power around her eyes and knew Eric was gauging his effect on her. She gave him an annoyed look and he couldn't help but laugh.

"You are a strange one, Sookie Stackhouse." The flash of hurt at his words flickered across her face. For reasons he couldn't understand he regretted hurting her feelings. For the briefest of moments, the acknowledgment unsettled him. He shifted in the hard straight back chair and watched her for a moment.

"Is Bill coming home soon? What's happening? Why hasn't he called?"

"I can't tell you that. Vampire business is not for mortal knowledge. I'm sure Bill will explain some things upon his return."

She glared at him and felt her eyes fill with tears. She was worried, scared, angry and now nervous from the situation she found herself in.

"This is your fault." She couldn't stop the tears from flowing down her cheeks.

"My fault?" He questioned incredulously. "Bill killed a vampire for a…human. That is not something our kind takes lightly."

"He would have killed me!" She looked at his blank expression and seethed. "Oh, so that's okay? You force Bill to drag me to Fangtasia. You couldn't even ask me yourself!"

His eyes widened at the absurdity of having to ask her to come. He remained silent and she continued.

"You just stood there while he tried to kill me…like I was a spider on the floor!" The tears were dripping from her nose and chin and she swiped absently at her cheeks with her hand. Eric wasn't sure why he felt the need to comfort her and he tried to push the need aside. Before he could stop himself he stood and retrieved a paper towel from the roll by the sink. He offered it to her and was pleased when she accepted.

"I did want you wanted! I found out who was stealing your money and since you were done with me you were just gonna let him rip my throat out!"

"Please stop crying." He asked softly. She could see the slight discomfort on his face.

"Why? Because it's so…human?" She spat.

"It's…disconcerting." He admitted before he meant to. She regarded him for a minute as she wiped her nose and saw a flicker of truth. Eric hated to see a woman cry. She didn't really know what to do with that piece of information. She caught his eye and he returned her gaze. She knew, that he knew, she had figured just a little sliver of Eric Northman out and it rattled him. She broke their silent sizing up with an unladylike sniffle.
"What are you?" He questioned. Bill had asked her the same thing.

"You know what I am." She stated with defiance in her voice. He shook his head and gave a small chuckle.

"The ever coy Sookie. I believe there is more to you than just your unique gift of telepathy."

Sookie frowned and tried to ignore the look of questioning on his face.

"What do you want from me, Eric?" She asked again as he settled across the table from her again.

"Maybe I just had to see what would make a vampire risk everything. What would make Bill defy me so forcefully when I offered to take you?"

"What?!" She sat a little straighter and narrowed her eyes.

"I may have even considered appealing to the tribunal, but Bill refused to give you to me. Why would he risk so much?"

"I'm not a book to be checked out and passed around! What is wrong with you?"

"You are his." He stated as if that explained everything. "But for how long remains to be seen."

She swallowed hard and stared at the pattern of the paper towel she twisted in her fingers. When she finally looked up she found Eric regarding her with a little too much interest.

"Stop it." She commanded. His eyes met hers and he had the nerve to offer an innocent smile.

"Stop what?"

"You're staring at my neck. Stop."

"I was merely wondering…."

"You're looking at me like a yard dog at a pig pickin'. I'm not a buffet. So stop it. You've got no chance." She rose and strode purposefully to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of TrueBlood that she had bought for Bill. She plunked it down on the table in front of him and returned to her seat. "Suck on that."

His laughter erupted through the kitchen and vibrated through the house.

"No thank you. I can hardly stomach the stuff."

"Figures." She snorted and for a moment they shared a comfortable laugh. They each fell into a relaxed silence. She wondered why she wasn't scared of the ancient vampire now absently shifting the bottle of blood back and forth across the table. She knew if she was smart she should be scared to death of him. He had no loyalty to her. He could rip her throat out in a heartbeat if he chose to and there wasn't a thing she could do about it. Before she could continue that thought she saw Eric's head jerk toward the back door.

"There's a truck coming up your driveway." He stated and then looked at her for any sign of concern. Bill demanded that Sookie needed protecting. The enigmatic statement had been a curious one to him and It unsettled him that he kept wondering what he meant.

"It's Sam." She saw the beam of his headlights circle the room as he pulled around to the back of the house.
"You're boss." He leaned forward and offered her a suggestive leer.

"Bill asked him to look after me." He cocked his head and held his question while Sam entered the room. Sam stopped short and took in the scene before him.

"Sookie? You okay? What's goin' on?" He stepped further in the room and eyed Eric suspiciously.

"I'm fine. Eric, this is Sam Merlotte." Eric nodded in greeting as she continued. "Sam, Eric is a friend of Bill's." She ignored the slight grunt from Eric that that statement had earned her.

"Is there something I should know about?" Sam stepped closer to Sookie.

"There seems to be something I should know. Why would Bill require a shifter to protect Sookie in his absence?" Eric asked.

Sam and Sookie shared a look. She had found out the night before that there were a lot of things in this world she didn't know about and Sam being a shape shifter was one of them.

"Somebody's killin' women." Sam answered with steel in his voice still smarting from Eric's condescending tone. "Women that associate with vampires. Sookie's been targeted. Who ever it is killed her grandmother."

Eric stilled and watched the pain scatter across Sookie's face. He knew he wasn't getting the entire story but he didn't want to push her. At that moment, she looked frail and scared. Something inside him didn't like seeing her like that. He stood to his full height and stepped over to the refrigerator to return the True Blood. Sookie cocked an eye brow at how he seemed to take over any room he was in. Turning to face her again he said something that surprised all three of them.

"Then perhaps I should stay with you this evening." Eric shoved his hands in his pocket and leaned against the counter.

"No! I'm fine." Sookie protested.

"I can handle things here." Sam stiffened and set his jaw. Eric's eyes traveled from Sam's to Sookie's. He could tell the feelings the shifter had for her and wondered if he too would be seduced by this young telepath. It seemed she had that effect on the men around her. He rocked away from the counter and nodded.

"I'll leave you then. But if you should require anything….please call." He handed her his business card. She held the card in her hand and looked at the glossy black paper that had his name, phone and an email for Fangtasia.

"Thanks." She rose to her feet to see him to the door. Sam stayed behind in the kitchen but kept a watchful eye on Sookie.

"I'll check on you again if Bill has not returned." He stated as he paused by the front door.

"I'll be fine I'm sure." Eric held her gaze and he could feel her heart beat a little quicker.

"Let's hope that's so." He stepped across the threshold and didn't look back as he headed into the darkness. Sookie exhaled and closed the door and bolted the locks.

Eric watched from the edge of the woods. He saw her return to the kitchen with Sam. They talked for a while longer before he saw a light turn on upstairs. He silently moved though the edge of the woods until he could see the front of the house. He saw the shifter settle on the couch in the living room. It pleased him that the shifter didn't share her bed. He decided not to go back to Shreveport that evening. Instead he gave in to the notion that perhaps keeping this woman safe wasn't a bad idea.