It must be the blood loss, I thought to myself. This can't be happening.

The last thing I remembered was seeing De Castro's head bounce down my steps onto my lawn right after he tore my throat open. I must have passed out, because there was no way this could have been real. But when you have a naked Viking Sex God tied down on a bed right in front of you, laid out like a feast for your eyes (and soon my mouth), I chalked it up to not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

In the candlelight around us, I walked around to get a better view of him from all sides, my silk gown sliding noiselessly over my legs. His body was made for pleasure, muscles in all the right places looking defined and toned without being overwhelming. Pecs that were cut from swinging a sword or an axe rather than pumping barbells at a gym. Those muslces flowed down to set of abs that begged to be licked in between. And that V of his pelvic bone, going down, curving in to where thighs met groin and his considerable length, even in a flaccid state, commanded your eyes. Heat flushed into my cheeks because I was thinking about something Arlene had said once about men with big... egos... that most of the time they didn't know how to use it. Like that sword I had recently seen him wield, Eric most definitely knew what he was doing and used his prowess to a devastating effect.

"Sookie?" his husky voice cut through my hazy, lusty thoughts.

My vampire was wearing a blindfold, but his head was turned unerringly towards me, no doubt because of his other enhanced senses. I stood at the foot of the great bed, looking down on him, my mouth watering and blood rushing to places other than my brain.

"Yes?" I replied. Our bond hummed a little with Eric's annoyance. I had no doubt in my mind that Eric had probably done stuff like this in his past, but his reaction told me that he really did not enjoy being at my mercy. His muscles bunched and he tried to pull his arms forward, but something was in those shackles that kept him there, unable to move save for the little bit of slack the chains offered. Lucky for him those cuffs were lined, or else his efforts would have no doubt made his wrists bleed with his effort to get loose.

"How did I get here?" he asked angrily, his fangs flashing against his lips. "Let me go right now."

Even though he couldn't see me, I couldn't stop my eyebrow from rising at his tone. "No, I don't think I will. I kind of like you like this," I said, closing those last inches to run my hand over his foot and caress his ankle. My touch stilled him for a second before he started pulling again. When it still wouldn't work, he pulled on his legs, too.

"Release me and I can make it worth your while, lover," Eric said suddenly, his voice a silky tenor that promised sex and exquisite pleasure.

I hopped up on the bed, sitting cross-legged between his legs and resumed my lazy exploration of his legs, running my nails softly along the inside of his calves and tickling under his knees.

"Oh, I'm sure of that, honey," I said as my thumbs ran little circles up his inner thighs and my fingers splayed out to caress the fine hairs on top. He'd stopped pulling by now, but his body was still taut, tight and quivering under my touches. His erection now stood at full mast, bobbing close to my hands, like an anxious puppy wanting to be pet. I bypassed that part of him though, pressing my nails lightly into the crease between his thigh and torso.

"Touch me," he growled and thrust his hips forward.

"I am touching you," he must have heard my smirk because he snarled loudly.

"Touch my cock, Sookie."

I ignored him, but only a little. Leaning forward to trace the lines of his abs, my silk covered breasts brushed the head of him and a small drop of moisture caught on the fabric. Eric vibrated with contained intensity, his fangs flashing in the light and his hips straining forward to try and get more contact. I moved from between his legs to beside his torso so I could continue my slow wandering of his body.

When my fingers found his one nipple, he cursed loudly and savagely, his arms and legs straining against the bonds some more.

"What do you want?" I asked softly, knowing full well what he'd say. My hands were rubbing his nipples softly, feathering them with soft rubs and pulls.

"Harder," he hissed.

"Harder what?" I prompted him, never stopping my slow torture.

Eric growled deep in his chest, making my hands vibrate. "Rub them harder."

I obliged him a little and he started panting. "Fuck, Sookie, I can smell you. Climb on me," he ordered, his head thrashing from side to side. I ignored that too, but pinched his nipples with my nails, making it sting a little. I flushed with power when his frantic movements increased.

"What happened to all your self control?" I couldn't help taunting him; he did it to me so many times I had to give him a taste of it.

"I need you," he panted. My hands left his nipples, despite his whimper when I let go and moved up to caress his shoulders and arms. Leaning over to touch his wrist, my breasts got close to his face. He must have sensed that because he pushed his face up, trying to get closer. His nose nudged my nipple closest to him and I let out a sigh. Instantly he started panting again.

"Take the blindfold off, lover," he asked softly, surprising me with his gentle tone. I obliged him that, pushing the silk covering off and I was instantly captivated by his intense gaze. His eyes raked my body hungrily.

"Take it off" he commanded before snagging the material of my silk gown with his teeth and jerking to the side, like he was trying to rip it off me with his mouth alone. I jerked up, but he kept my gown in his teeth, his fangs piercing the material.

"No! Bad vampire!" I scolded him playfully, tapping his nose with two of my fingers. He released the material and full on glared at me.

"I'm not a dog."

"You're behaving like one," I said reproachfully before swinging my leg over his torso and straddling his tummy. His hard abs pressed against my core and he cursed in another language when he felt my wetness against him.

I kept my gown on, part of me doing it just to spite him, but I couldn't stop myself from grinding against him, letting the friction build between my legs until I felt like I was a firecracker about to explode into a million different pieces. Feeling more brazen than I'd ever felt before, I let my hand slide up my own thigh, pulling my gown up and exposing myself to Eric's hot gaze. His eyes zeroed in on my mons and his pupils narrowed into pin pricks. Using my fingers, I delicately pulled my labial lips apart, revealing the most intimate part of myself to his lusty stare.

Eric's nostrils were flared and I knew he could smell just how wet I was and how much I wanted him right now, but I made no move to get closer north to his mouth or south to his groin. Instead, keeping myself spread so he could see everything I was doing, I touched my finger to my own clit. I jolted on top of him and his hiss made his chest rumble. Rubbing gently, I looked down and watched him as he watched me.

"You're torturing me."

"Yeah, you gotta admit that you deserve it though." My voice caught as a wave of pleasure built inside me. I wasn't going to last long, doing this, but it was so worth it to see him like this, all frustrated and eager. My ego battery got recharged to capacity and more.

"That is beyond the point, lover, come closer," his eyes flicked back to what my hand was doing, not missing my finger as it rubbed circles around my clit or the digit that pushed inside me only up to the first knuckle.

"Why should I?" I taunted him. Tilting his hips, I felt his erection poke my bum from behind. I reached behind myself, grasping his length without missing a beat of what I was doing to myself. Eric went off in length in another language and I doubted any of those words were clean ones. His thighs started to quiver when my fingers stroked down his shaft, lightly. His eyes flicked from my core to my hard nipples poking through my gown and up to my face, where I watched him and back again, doing a circuit. I pressed harder against my nub, starting to feel that familiar tingle escalating inside my chest and fanning out to all my extremities, lighting me up like a Christmas tree. Eric's hips moved with my synchronized touches of him and myself, his lips peeling back to bare his fully dropped fangs.

"Oh god..." I moaned, unable to keep it inside. My fingers started moving frantically, I was so close... "Eric!" My back snapped straight and my hips jerked on top of him when my release finally hit me. Eric moaned with me, throwing his head back, but keeping his eyes on me as I came on top of him. Wetness hit the back of my gown and spread as we cried out together, riding the waves of ecstasy.

I slumped forward, bracing my hands on either side of his face and stared down at him. Eric was panting, even though he didn't have to, I think it was just a natural reaction he wasn't thinking about. I loved that I could make him lose control like that. A flash in his eyes and a warning in the bond had me regretting teasing him so much because with a mighty lurch he pulled on the shackles again, growling loudly like an animal, but he kept his eyes on me. I started to move off of him, scared and turned on that he might actually break them and come after me... When I heard the shackles start to protest and snap, I knew he was going to be loose in a matter of seconds so I was off the bed and running full tilt. Sure enough, I heard the chains give a final snap and even though my legs took me as fast as they could, I couldn't wait for him to catch me...

"Sookie?" a voice broke through my fear and arousal, replacing the pleasure with pain. I whimpered.

"I think she's coming to," another voice said with amusement. "She's drenched her panties."

"She must be dreaming, decapitation has hardly had this effect on her in the past." That was Pam's voice, dryer than the Sahara. "I will inform Eric that she is waking up and horny." That Pam.

Opening my eyes, I caught Pam's retreating form going out my bedroom door, leaving me alone with Sebastian who stood at the foot of my bed. I couldn't remember how I got here or where my clothes had gone... De Castro was dead. I remembered that part.

"What happened?" I asked, my voice hoarse. The funny taste in my mouth was familiar; I think Eric had given me his blood again. "Where's Eric? Where were you?"

Sebastian watched me as I questioned him, all mischief and naughtiness gone from his face, giving me a glimpse of the vampire he was. His hair was slicked back and his blue silk shirt unruffled and still tucked into his black slacks. He looked all business.

"I was on your roof," he said without emotion. "On my phone with Eric. You shouldn't have gone out your door; the shifter was in no immediate danger."

"He was beaten and they would have had no problem killing him if I hadn't co-operated. If I had known you were on my roof, I wouldn't have worried!" To his credit, he flinched a little at my words and how harshly they were spoken. "I need to know what is going on."

Taking a seat on a chair that unfortunately had been occupied by too many men in the past for my liking, Sebastian leaned back and the moonlight filtering in through the window gave him a natural spotlight. Even when he was serious, he looked gorgeous and sinful.

"To make a long story short, De Castro fucked up. Eric and I had been waiting for this moment and we took it. He brought his people here in hopes of slaughtering Eric and his followers, taking you and finally establishing himself as the true ruler of Louisiana, as well as setting an example for his other two states. Instead, he lost Nevada, his mind and then his head. End of story."

It took me a moment to take all that in and I wasn't sure what to ask about first, so I blurted out what came to mind first. "What happened at the Fellowship meeting?"

"The footage is airing on the news right now," Sebastian said with a smile. "Modern media is useful at times. We brought a news crew with us to crash the meeting. They got evidence of the entire discussion."

"Oh, so the FOTS was caught red-handed?" I wondered out loud. Pretty smart. With cameras in their red faces and the vamps there under the banner of nonviolence, the Fellowship wouldn't resort to violence and be publicly exposed for the extremists they were. "So Eric wasn't hurt at all."

Sebastian rolled his eyes. "You would have known if he was gone, Sookie. He was never at the Fellowship meeting."

I felt my face flush, but pushed on. "How did De Castro lose Nevada first?"

The twinkle returned to his eyes and he sat up straighter, like the very subject made him giddy. "That's my doing. That idiot left his home-base undefended. All I needed to do was set up a few bombs in key places and detonate them at the precise moments needed for effect, then my people went in, seized the place and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, you are looking at the new King of Nevada." He smiled wickedly, his fangs glinting and dimples flashing.

I picked my chin up off the floor and rolled my tongue back into my mouth before answering. "What? You took over Nevada? What people?" I sat up in bed in my excitement, and then when I felt a draft, a quick glance told me that I was in my underwear and the blanket had fallen off, exposing my lacy bra and its contents to Sebastian. He leered openly. I coughed to bring him back to the conversation at hand.

"Some followers of mine, who.. passed through.. Fangtasia." He tilted his head to the side, like it was just a passing thought. Fangtasia had seen A LOT of new staff going through recently, under the pretence of making up for Eric's unavailability... I never even saw that coming. "Honestly, they hounded me after I left France. So I figured me and Sin City would be a good match. Now you can come work for me whenever I need you," he said with a wink.

"You can't afford me," I snapped back, fighting a smile. There was a pregnant pause in the conversation because I didn't know what to ask first. Sebastian took the choice out of my hands for me.

"Victor assumed the throne of Arkansas and Louisiana, since Sandy is indisposed indefinitely. His following is weak, but with Eric declaring fealty to him, he should go uncontested," he said in a soft voice. Another awkward pause went between us. I fiddled with the blanket around me, unable to look up at the young looking vamp who was staring at me.

"He did it for you, you know," Sebastian said suddenly. There had been no anger in his voice, just a statement that sounded almost... caring. "If he'd become King, his responsibilities would have changed and I have heard you are rather demanding of his time.." he snickered.

"Eric said he didn't want to be King anyways, it had nothing to do with me. He'd be a bigger target and I think he's happy where he is and doing what he's doing," I replied. I wasn't going to think about the "what-ifs" of Eric's decision. It was his to make, regardless of me.

"So when are you going to your new Kingdom, shouldn't you be there?"

"He asked me to wait until he was done sorting things out with Victor, so I will. Victor is terrified of you now, by the way. He thinks you're unlucky when it comes to Vampire Royalty... Peter Threadgill, Sophie-Anne and now De Castro..."

"Yeah, I know, too many vampires have died around me." I started to feel happier and safer, meaning Eric was on his way. "Good luck with your new Kingdom."

Sebastian looked surprised, but then smiled. "My cue to leave. I'll be in touch, Mommy Dearest."

As Eric came through the door and towards my bed, Sebastian passed him. Both men paused and shared a very personal look before they nodded to each other and Sebastian was gone. Eric watched him go before turning back to me and coming over to the side of my bed. Silently he sat down, removed his boots with two thunks. Standing, he took off his pants, black sequined thong (I didn't ask) and shirt before sliding in beside me wordlessly. His arms came around me, pulling me into his body and he wrapped his big legs around me, like he was trying to cover every inch of my body with his that he could.

"Just sleep, lover," he whispered. Holding him as tightly as he held me, I drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile...

Pam stood outside Sookie's house, looking up to the window that she had seen the outline of her Maker in. Her figure silhouetted in the moonlight on the simple lawn was dainty and deceiving. Her clothes and mouth were bloodstained, although she had wiped a bit away from her chin she still looked ghastly and viscerally dangerous. Tonight had been a good night for war, her side victorious and the fighting worthy of her time. Even though anger still hummed in her ancient veins at Eric's refusal to seize the Louisiana throne, part of her understood. The understanding was objective: Eric valued the time with his human.

Looking over the lowly residence, she thought about how simple this was. Her Maker had seen sights and experienced things over the centuries of his immortality that defied the imagination of humans, and yet he found his simplest pleasures in the arms of a facile, yet uncommon human woman.

The front door opened and Sebastian walked through like he owned the place, closing the door behind him and was swiftly at her side. He followed her gaze to the silent window. They stared at it together in silence for a few moments, both lost in their own thoughts.

So deceiving, Pam thought to herself as she took in the young-looking form of her "brother" standing at her side. Her Maker had chosen the two of them for different reasons, which were his own, but he had been cunning in his choices: Sebastian was driven, yet devoid of any sense of tradition and conformity, making him easily adaptable and not prone to over amounts of pride. And yet his loyalty was renowned and coveted by vampires and Supes alike. She was ruthless and sharp to a Machiavellian degree, prepared to do whatever was necessary to ensure the survival of herself and those she deemed worthy (which were very few and far between). She made the perfect second-in-command to a natural leader like Eric; while Sebastian made the perfect offspring.

And while Sebastian may find glory in his own right as a King, Eric was feared and respected by many. Not an easily accomplished feat for a Sheriff. And while stories ran rampant in the vampire underworld about the Viking, her name was never far from the lips of those who spoke of him and when they did speak of her, it was with fear, which suited her just fine.

"You getting ideas, Pammy? Want to find a good human of your own to settle down with for a couple decades?" Sebastian taunted, breaking the silence. He looked back at her, his hungry eyes taking in the blood that scored her body and clothing. Approval and desire graced his young-looking face.

"Hardly," she scoffed, looking bored.

"Getting bored in the swamps of Louisiana at all?" he asked, his eyes narrowing on her, using the one sided bond they had to get a feel of her emotions as she answered.

All he read from her was vague amusement and total non-interest. "Around that human, boredom is a luxury," she drawled.

"Las Vegas is always open to you," Sebastian said suddenly. The only outward expression of her surprise was her perfect shaped eyebrow quirking up a little. "You want to stay in the swamp?" he sniffed the air for emphasis.

"Swamp or your company? You can't imagine how hard it is to decline your offer," she retorted dryly before turning to leave. However, Sebastian's hand snaked out and grabbed her arm, trying to turn her around, but Pam had seen it coming and with a motion much too fast for the human eye, she had Sebastian on his knees and her fangs poised just over his neck.

"Make it good," Sebastian rasped out just a half a moment before Pam punctured his neck savagely and began to drink...


"The footage from the live camera feed clearly showed the Fellowship's intent to start a war with the vampires and Shifters of Louisiana," Nan Flanagan sneered coldly.

"I still maintain that that broadcast was doctored!" the Fellowship representative screeched back, his ruddy face going redder and redder with anger.

"I'm sorry Mr. Johnson, are you calling into question the integrity of our film crew?" the official newswoman asked from the middle of the television screen, squished between the figures of Nan Flanagan of the AVL and Larry Johnson of the FOTS. The debate roared on from my television screen, the Fellowship trying to save face, while Nan and the AVL plowed on in their effort to expose the church for what they really were. The other surprising news was the alliance between the AVL and the newly founded SAA (Shifter Association of America) in this new scandal.

As I walked into my living room to tell Eric to shut it off, the breath left my lungs in a rush when I caught sight of him. I didn't think I'd ever get over the image of him lying on the floor of my old family home, shirtless, his gaze focused on the laptop in front of him. I'd barely seen him the last few days, since the new Rregime was kicking in and things had had to be sorted out. Victor had made Eric his representative in Louisiana (a smart move on his part) and Eric was busy getting all his stuff in order. He'd taken the time to be here with me on Christmas, though, just as I'd asked.

It had been a good holiday for me. I'd spent the morning with Remy and Hunter, watching Hunter's face light up as he opened the gifts I'd brought him, while trying to keep my shields up so he couldn't 'peak' and see what he got before he got the wrapping paper off. Remy was flabbergasted at the gift I'd given him: papers for Hunter's trust fund to use for going to school or whatever he wanted to when he came of age. Thankfully there had been no questions about where the money had come from and I was happy just to see them smile.

Jason had stopped by to give me a present, leaving it on the back step while I was gone. It was a gold necklace with a small yellow gold pendant with the word: Sister in a filigree setting. His card was simple, but said he missed me and didn't think I'd appreciate getting a silver one. Amelia was spending Christmas with her father, but had made time to call and wish me a good holiday, promising to be back in time for New Years Eve.

Eric had brought over my present, which wasn't wrapped (I could never picture Eric wrapping a present, although the mental picture made me giggle), but it was a big wood box and looking at it drove me nuts. I didn't know what could be in there that didn't cost money though...

"Are you sure you held up our deal, Eric?" I asked from the doorway. He turned to look at me, his mouth in a knowing smirk.

"Yes, lover," he crooned. He snapped closed the laptop and turned off the TV. "Come here, Sookie" he said, crooking his finger. I smiled and came forward, keeping his present behind my back. "What have you got?"

I laid down next to him on my old quilt and propped myself up on an elbow to look at him better. He mirrored my pose and smiled devilishly.

"Your present," I said. Then biting the bullet, I pulled the Polaroid picture from behind my back and in front of his eyes. He reached up slowly to take it from my hand and I saw his eyes roam all over the small picture, taking in everything. I knew what it looked like, Hanna had taken it for me before she'd left and I had memorized it. It was a picture of me, laying on my back, naked in the sun. Hanna had fanned my hair out all around me and gotten me to pose so that my one hand looked like I was reaching towards something beside me and the other rested on my tummy. My breasts were bare (which made my insides churn in embarrassment), but my leg was crooked slightly, hiding my crotch modestly. Hanna had told me to look away from the camera and visualize Eric laying next to me; what he might look like in the middle of the day, in the warmth of the sun. When I saw the picture after it was taken, I was amazed at the look on my face and the love that shone there. I knew Eric was taking that all in now and our bond hummed with delight.

"Hanna took it," I blurted out. "And I already had the camera with film in it, so it didn't cost me anything."

Eric's eyes finally rose from the photograph and he slowly put it on top of his laptop. He put his hand behind my neck and pulled me close, kissing me softly. His lips were soft and tender, pressing gently, then, and sweeping back and forth over mine.

"It doesn't do your beauty justice," he murmured against my lips. My heart seized a little at his words and I kissed him back as I pushed my eyelids together hard to keep the tears from falling.

"Would you like to see your present now?" he asked, his old Eric flair making me anxious as to what he got me. I nodded and he went over to my tree, picking up the wood box with little to no effort and brought it over to me. My hand shook with anticipation when he put it down and I saw that there was a hole on the top the length of the slim box, so whatever was inside was long and thin. Flashing Eric a smile, I dug in, reaching inside where I felt something solid and heavy. I put my other hand in and pulled slowly and carefully. Appearing before my eyes was a painting in a dark wood frame. It was a painting of my home at sunset, done from the driveway coming up. The lawn and forest surrounding it was flawless, but mysterious at the same time from the shadows cast by the setting sun. Even though I know you shouldn't touch painting, I could not stop my finger from tracing the porch where I had spent so much time with Jason and Gran growing up. The kitchen light was on and there was a figure silhouetted in the window, making my heart ache at the familiarity of it: like Gran was there, waiting up for me on a late-night shift at Merlotte's, sitting and reading at the kitchen table.

I tried to speak, but it was hard and I swallowed a few times before I could actually say anything. "You weren't supposed to spend money on this."

Eric moved closer and took the painting from my hands. I watched as he brought it to the mantelpiece, where I just noticed a nail had been driven into the wall. He hung it expertly so that the beautiful picture could be seen from all places in the room.

"It was a donation," he said, turning back to me. I took a closer look in the corner of the picture, reading the small intricate signature.

"Hanna did this?"

"She gave it to me, saying I would need it today," he said, looking as bewildered as I did. Then he pulled a letter out of his pocket and handed it to me. "She asked me to give this to you after you saw it."

I opened it up with shaking hands, not surprised to see that it was typed on a computer, since from what I'd seen of Hanna, she was addicted to technology.

Dear Sookie,

It's a donation, I swear.

Moving on.. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say good-bye. I really wanted to, believe me. Especially after everything we shared together.

Darius knows by now. About the baby that is. I never wanted kids. It'll be a daughter, I know that much and she'll have my gift, but I'm going to become a vampire one day, nothing will stop that and what kind of life is that for a child? I'd ask one of my brothers to take her when she's born, but once it gets out that I'm knocked up... I have a bad feeling, Sookie. A really bad one. You know firsthand what happens to humans like us... with abilities that can be exploited and used... My daughter will be hunted and fought over by the very people I love, just like I was. I have no fucking idea what to do and I'm afraid to take more of Darius' blood to get a clear vision of what I'm supposed to do, so all I see myself doing is writing you this letter. I met you for a reason. I hope you know what that means.

Think about it. Eric knows how to get a letter back to me in total confidentiality.

Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy your present. I saw Eric giving it to you, but never what you looked like when you saw it.

Sincerely yours,

Hanna

I re-read the words several times, my throat getting tighter each time. Looking up at Eric, he gazed back at me without expectations, but clearly aware of how I was feeling. Hanna's disjointed thought process was hard to follow, but I got her gist. So much went through me right then: hope, longing, fear and guilt... But it was Christmas and I had a little while to dwell on it before I answered her. Folding the letter up and putting it aside, I looked up at the painting again.

"What are you thinking, Sookie?" Eric asked softly, coming up behind me. His mouth brushed the top of my head.

"I'm glad you don't have any more questions banked up to ask me." I sighed, leaning back on him. Eric's chuckle surprised me. "What?" I asked, turning around to face him. He was smiling deviously and I felt a little bit of doom looming over us.

"I was thinking about the same subject, but how I never cashed in my third question," he smirked.

"Yeah you did, when you made me admit that I could read your mind sometimes."

Eric quirked his eyebrows with annoying superiority. "I never stated that that was one of my allotted questions, you answered it freely."

"Whatever, it still counts," I growled at him. He pulled me closer, his nose nuzzling my neck and his mouth hovering over my ear.

"But I still have one more question to ask you, lover," he purred, sending shivers down my spine. His tongue traced the outside of my ear. God, that felt so good... but I wouldn't give in.

"You can ask away, but I counted that as your third question so I might not answer." My voice was more breathless than I'd hoped, mainly because he was now kissing down my neck, nibbling and sucking as he went.

"I have a feeling you might answer this one," he said, his voice husky. His hand slid under my chin and he tilted my head up so I could look him in the eye. His other hand fished something out of his pocket and pushed it into my empty hand. I brought the little something up so I could see it in my line of vision, since he wouldn't let go of my chin to let me look down. Surprise hit me like a ton of bricks and my breathing sped up faster. Opening the little black ring box with his free hand, Eric tilted it up so that the diamond solitaire caught the light from my fire place just right, sending blinding sparkles everywhere across the walls of the room.

"Sookie," Eric said softly, drawing my gaze back up to his beautiful blue eyes. They sparkled on their own, even brighter than the diamond. "Will you marry me?"

THE END

H'okay, so I know I left a few loose ends, but I like how I ended it. I'm sorry if you didn't. Anywho, I have one more thing to add, which is a deleted scene of sorts. It's a really short scene of Sookie getting to speak to Darius about Hanna, but I couldn't find a way to fit it in. Hope you enjoy:

I suddenly found myself alone with Darius, watching Hanna sleep like the dead.

"She told you," he said simply and we both knew what he was referring to.

"Yes," I said, swallowing heavily. Darius stood next to me, but it felt like he wanted to be moving or pacing like a wild animal, but he kept that under a very tight rein. It was unnerving how intense he was when Hanna wasn't around to banter with him.

"Does it bother you a lot that you can't be with anyone else?" I don't know why I asked, I just wanted to know. "I know vampires aren't into the monogamy thing too much."

"Not anymore," he said casually. "My body now associates her with sex and completion, so if anything, I desire her more each time."

"You two are always makin' things sound like some science experiment," I said softly. "Can't you just say you love her?"

Had I just crossed a line? I looked over at Darius, who just laughed cynically.

"A romantic. Nice," he huffed with annoying superiority. "If I told you that wolves mate for life and there have been reported incidences of one wasting away to death after the loss of their mate, would you call that love?"

"I don't know," I said honestly. "I was taught that love meant you were in it for the whole of it, the bad, the good and everything in between. The Bible separates animals from people, but after being around shifters and Weres... Yeah, I'd say it could be love."

"Then I could love Hanna," he replied smartly.

His answer surprised me. "Because of the spell?"

He finally looked away from her and stared at me, his gaze holding me captive. "Here I thought you were a romantic," he muttered cryptically, shaking his head. "No. She is much more."

"And that's why you'll never let her go" I continued, trying to keep my voice free of judgement. His eyes went back to Hanna fervently, like he was trying to glamour her into waking up.

"I don't give a fuck if you think I'm a tyrant for it. If Hanna goes, I'm taking this whole fucking world down with her." Darius's eyes were practically glowing with rage and his hands were curled into the wicked claw-like shape I had seen other vampires do when they were fighting or threatened.

His statement scared me down to the God-loving core of myself. Vampires of his strength had a kind of aura around them, like that part of us that was still a little animal and knew when they were around a very powerful predator and told you without thinking that you had better watch yourself. Sophie-Anne had it and it had scared me down to my pink nailpolished toe-nails. Darius did the same right then, as if he would gladly try to destroy the world if Hanna were to die. A very un-Christian like thought entered my mind then. Maybe it was better that she would become a vampire, so they would never have to be separated, because God knows what he might do if she wasn't around.

To all the readers: Thank you all so much for following this story and for supporting me on my first full FF. I'm going to be working on Sebastian's story next, which will take place right after his interlude with Pam. After I'm done that, I'll be going on to Hanna and Darius's story which ties into Dying to Know. You gotta be warned that Hanna and D are much kinkier than our Southern Belle (although not our Viking, he's Kink on a Stick), so the content will be quite... explicit. Pervert *points to self* Remember? Anywho, thanks again for reading and for all the reviews, I have all my faves (which are quite a few) saved on my computer and I read them when I'm feeling down.

Thank you to everyone for the Beta offers. I did find a FANGTASTIC Beta, so mucho props and snaps to Sarifina85 who makes all my Beta dreams come true :)