[Author's Note: Alright, this story started as a one shot, then people convinced me to write more which is why Chapter 1 doesn't jive with 2 & 3. Then, I got snowed in with no electricity for a day and a half, and several days with no Internet access. So I've been writing to pass the time. Enjoy!

Oh, and about Eric. He's a little mushy up to this point, but rest assured, badass Eric will show up, with a vengeance, in subsequent chapters. He knows exactly what he's doing, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Adult content ahead. You have been warned.]

Revelations

Sookie's mind was racing. How could she explain to Gran who these amazing flowers were from?

"Uh, no, they're from a friend of his I met night before last."

"Someone you just met? Is he a vampire?"

"Yeah, actually, he is. I'd like for you to meet him."

"What about Mr. Compton?"

"We don't really have a lot in common, and we fought the other night, like I told you. I don't really see him being more than a friend…" Sookie explained as they went into the kitchen where breakfast was cooking.

"Is he as old as Mr. Compton?" Gran said as she looked under the sink for a watering can to make sure the flowers would last a few days.

"Actually, he's a lot older. He considers Bill a youngster!"

"Oh, my!"

"He's powerful, too. I don't understand it completely, but the vampires in this area sort of report to him. They call him a Sheriff."

"Is he handsome?"

"He's the most beautiful man I ever saw, Gran."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, he's really tall – maybe 6 and a half feet or so…"

"Oh, my! He must be huge!"

"He is, and he has long blonde hair and the bluest eyes I've ever seen. When I first saw him, I nearly died. Then he called me and Bill over because he wanted to meet me. I spent a lot of time talking to him night before last and last night, too…" Sookie was trying to explain this without lying, but so that Gran would understand that she got to know him a bit.

"So he already has your phone number? My, my, he must have made quite an impression. Is he very refined, like Mr. Compton?" Gran was plating the bacon that had been frying under the press.

"That's not the first word I'd think of for him. Powerful, in a quiet way, is how I'd describe him, like he's so powerful that he doesn't have to yell to get people to do what he wants. He just whispers and they do what he says."

"He sounds very important." Gran poured some grease out of the skillet and added some eggs to it.

"Yeah, he is, and he likes me, even though he sort of accidently discovered my disability. He says I shouldn't think of it that way, though, he says it's a miraculous gift," Sookie said with obvious excitement as she picked up her orange juice and drank.

Gran didn't say anything, but she was a little concerned about that. She wasn't naïve enough to assume that a powerful vampire was only interested in Sookie and not her ability. It was one of the reasons she always encouraged Sookie not to let people know what she could do. It wasn't that she was ashamed of Sookie's ability, it was that she was afraid of the people it might draw into Sookie's life. Gran didn't want her to be hurt by those that wanted to use her.

"You know, honey, you want to be careful who knows about your ability…"

"Oh, yeah, I know, but if that's all he was interested in, he could just order Bill to bring me to him."

"He could?" Gran thought that sounded very strange, but she didn't say anything as she took the biscuits out of the oven.

"Yeah, but he likes me. Really he does, I can tell. He doesn't think much of Bill and his creepy friends, actually."

"His creepy friends?"

"Yeah, I didn't tell you, but I met some of Bill's friends when I stopped by his house the other day with some phone numbers for electricians he needed. They were just awful, Gran! I couldn't believe he'd even associate with such people!"

"Oh, dear. Did he know them very well?"

"Too well for my taste. Eric thinks they're "young trash.""

"Eric – is that your new vampire's name?"

"Yeah, Eric Northman. I think he's Swedish, but from a long time ago."

"How long?"

"Well, he says he's a Viking!"

"OH, MY!"

"Just imagine how much history he's seen if he's even half that old!"

"I can't even imagine that. He must be fascinating!"

"He is. Do you think I could invite him over tomorrow night? I'm not sure he can come, of course, because it's Saturday and he owns a bar, but maybe just for a bit before he has to go to work?"

"Are you definitely planning to see him again?"

"Oh, yes. I'm pretty sure we'll be spending a lot of time together."

"Alright, then, I do want to know who you're spending time with. I can trust you to be careful, can't I, Sookie?"

"Sure, Gran, I don't want to get into anything I can't handle."

"What kind of women does he meet in his bar?" Gran brought the food to the table and they started to fill their plates.

"That's just it – he's sick of women in black clothes and vampire make-up. I was the only person there who had a tan. He said I was a "vision.""

"You did look awfully pretty that night. I was concerned that dress was a little low cut, you know."

"Oh, believe me, there were women there showing a lot more than I was. He said I looked "untouched."

That's what Gran was afraid of. The way Sookie was talking, she was pretty sure she wasn't going to stay that way. She wondered just how close they'd been already, but she'd never intrude on Sookie's privacy that way. She was 25, after all, and Gran knew she wouldn't wait much longer before she went to the next level with some man or another. At least this Eric was a business owner and seemed to have a position of authority. She wasn't crazy about him running a bar, but Sookie worked in a bar every night so she could hardly object to that. At least Sookie was willing to introduce him to her instead of sneaking around.

"Do you have to work tonight, dear?"

"Yeah, I've got the dinner shift again, so I'll be done by 9 o'clock, though. I'll call Eric and ask him if he can come over for a visit Saturday night. If he can, I'll stop off and get a carton of True Blood to serve him, OK?"

"Yes, that's a good idea. I felt terrible about forgetting about that for Mr. Compton the other night."

"He understood, though. I just want to make sure things are perfect for Eric, you know?"

"Yes, honey, I do."

"Do you need me to do anything before I lay in the sun?"

"There's some laundry to fold, if you don't mind. You know it's hard on my back to bend over to that dryer."

"OK, I'll take care of that right after breakfast. You sure you don't want me to mow the lawn, too?"

"Jason promised he'd come by and do that this afternoon. That old lawn mower is getting to where it takes some mechanical know-how to get it started."

"Yeah, he's good with stuff like that – sort of makes up for him bein' such a hound-dog. I'm surprised he's not here this morning."

"He probably got up late and had to go straight to work. He's been in a little trouble about getting in so late."

"He stays out 'til all hours with Hoyt and Catfish and then he picks up some floozy…"

"Now, Sookie, you wouldn't want him to talk that way about your gentlemen friends, would you?"

"No, but they've got some class, at least. Remember how he got in Bill's face the other night?"

"Now, sugar, he was just tryin' to be a good brother."

"No, he wasn't, he was being a bigot."

"Well, I agree, we shouldn't judge other people. He's old enough to make his own choices, though, and so are you."

"Yeah, I guess."

They chatted some about Bill's talk to the Descendants of the Glorious Dead, and Gran told Sookie what the ladies at the supermarket were saying about Jason and those girls. It wasn't looking good for him, and Sookie couldn't say that she knew who the killer was and probably which lake he was at the bottom of. René would come up missing, and the murders would stop, but would that be enough to get the suspicion off of Jason?

Sookie was trying not to relive the feeling of that man's noose or whatever around her neck as she was folding clothes on the enclosed back porch. She hadn't thought about Jason before she had Eric dump René's body – she had been so focused on protecting Eric that she just wanted it all to go away. She also had to admit to herself that Eric was awfully good at getting rid of bodies and barely had to think about what to do. That didn't bode well, and she knew it, but then she rationalized it by deciding he had lived for so many years and he was a Sheriff, whatever that meant, so he's probably had to clean up a lot of vampire messes, right? A part of her knew he had gotten rid of more than his share of human bodies, too, though, but surely that was long ago and in times when it was essential to his survival, right? You couldn't blame a person for trying to stay alive, could you?

Every time her mind went back to Eric, she felt tingly and horny. Having sex just seemed to make her want more sex, she laughed to herself as she lay on a lounge chair in the back yard. She kept pressing her lips together, enjoying the slightly bruised feeling they had from kissing so much when you aren't used to it. If she concentrated, she could feel where he had bitten her, and where he had sucked her nipple and definitely where he was between her legs. Her hootchie seemed a lot more alive than it ever had before, like it had been in hibernation all this time and then suddenly there was Eric and HELLO! It was wide-awake.

She had a nearly irresistible urge to rub herself through her bathing suit, but she didn't dare. Gran would be scandalized if she saw her doing that in broad daylight and she was in the part of the yard where anybody coming up the drive could see her. She'd never live it down if Jason even had a hint that she did that. She laughed – she didn't know how he'd react to that, but she was pretty sure it wouldn't be good. He'd either be so shocked and embarrassed that he wouldn't be able to look at her, or he'd call her a slut. The latter was more likely, she decided, but the point was moot because she was going to make herself not do that.

After about an hour, though, she got to thinking about how it felt to be under Eric, his long hair brushing her cheek as he kissed her and touched her and she slipped into the tool shed for a quickie. She was amazed at herself. Were other people like this? How did they ever get anything done?

Sookie looked at her phone and wondered if there was some way to use it to find out what time the sun would go down tonight? She knew she'd never be able to wait until she got off work to call Eric. He said she could call any time and she just had to hear his deep, smooth voice again. She figured she'd have to sneak the phone into the bathroom and pretend she had another stomachache. She laughed again, thinking Sam was going to think she had some kind of condition.

Badass. She decided that was the word she would use to describe Eric, but even if she'd thought of it earlier, she couldn't say that to Gran. He said if she came to his house, he'd show her what sex could be like when you didn't have to go slow or be quiet. That was scary and exciting, both, just like Eric. She was sure he wouldn't really hurt her but she also had a feeling Eric was so extremely advanced that he'd be into some kinky stuff that Sookie didn't even know about. That was big trust he was asking for – to spend Sunday night to Tuesday morning at his house. That's two nights of all the sex they wanted. She'd be by herself in his house all day Monday. What would that be like?

Sookie tried to picture what Eric's house would be like. On one hand, a guy like him would look right in a house full of black leather couches and black lacquer furniture. He said he was sick of black, though, so maybe his house was an escape from that? She pictured expensive, real wood furnishings and a den with a real bearskin rug that he killed himself. She considered that he might be like most club types and have a house that looks like no one lives in it, or worse a college dorm, but she was pretty sure that wasn't Eric's style. She would bet money that wherever Eric slept would be really nice.

"Ack!" Sookie had lost track of time and needed to be in the shower half an hour ago. She grabbed all her sunbathing stuff and ran up the stairs, then went into the bathroom and took a quick but very thorough shower, just in case. She doubted Eric would be coming by to see her tonight, but he said he'd come whenever he could so she'd better be prepared for him. That meant she shaved her legs even though she was late, and just hoped Sam wouldn't be mad. She threw her makeup into her bag and threw on a fresh uniform, then she was out the door, but had to come back because she forgot her phone. "Bye, Gran! See you tonight!"

"Have fun, Sweetheart, you be careful now! Don't go racing and get into an accident."

"I won't!" Sookie waved as she backed her crappy little yellow car out of the yard and onto the lane to the main road. She rolled into Merlotte's at 5 after 4, and Sam was watching the clock when she got there. "I'm so sorry, Sam, I was helping Gran and lost track of the time."

"Alright, let's just don't make a habit of it, alright?"

"Right, I'll get my station set up right now." Sookie did just that and when she saw Sam talking to some of the local police, she sneaked into his office and got her handbag from the drawer so she could put on a little makeup. She knew she got better tips if she wore a little mascara and pink lip gloss, and that didn't take long, so she was back before Sam finished his conversation. Sam knew she had done something, though, because he noticed she suddenly looked more together. Sookie didn't make as many mistakes today, but she kept staring at the window, practically willing the sun to go down.

Dusk seemed to last forever today, but they got a rush and by the time things slowed down it was definitely dark out. She was done for the moment and asked Arlene to cover her while she went to the ladies' room and she agreed. She managed to get her phone out of Sam's office without anyone noticing and she locked herself into the ladies room, pulling up Eric's number from the phone book. She laughed at herself because her hand was shaking. Damn! She got Eric's voice mail. She didn't want to leave a message so she just hung up and figured she'd try again later. She stowed her phone and went back to her tables to see if anyone needed anything.

Sookie was behind the bar washing glasses when she heard Arlene say "Oh, my god – is that a vampire?! He's huge!"

Sookie looked up and there was Eric, filling the doorway, looking into the room. The new girl, Kim, went up to him and asked if he'd like a table and she heard him ask to be seated in Sookie's section if she was working tonight. Sookie was frozen. Why was he here?!

"Hey, Sookie, you've got a customer on 9."

"Thanks, Kim, I'll get him," Sookie replied, already drying her hands and trying to calm down. It was weird, but whenever she saw Eric, she was shocked at how beautiful he was. She remembered him being good looking, but he was always so much more so when she was face to face with him.

"Hi," Sookie was barely able to stand still as she walked up to Eric's table with her order pad in her hand, "can I get you anything?"

"Yes, actually, I'd like a True Blood, type O if you carry it." Eric gave her a very confident but affectionate smile.

"Sure, I'll be right back with it." Sookie could swear her feet weren't even touching the floor. She heated his blood and was back at his table as soon as she possibly could be.

"You look very sweet tonight, Sookie, though that uniform hardly does you justice."

"Thanks. I tried to call you earlier but I got your voicemail."

"I was…" he leaned forward and whispered, "in the air, so I had it going straight to voice mail. It can be very hard to hear if I'm moving very quickly."

"Oh, well, it's nice to see you!"

"It's lovely to see you too, Sookie. Why were you trying to call me? Did you leave a message?"

"Oh, no, I thought I'd try again. I wanted to ask you if you were able to come meet my grandmother tomorrow night? I know you probably have to work but I really want you to meet her before she knows… you know….?"

"Yes, I think that would be lovely. What time would you like me to be there?"

"Let's see – you got here just after 7, so how about 7:30?"

"Alright, 7:30 tomorrow. I'll drive and I'll come to your front door for a change," he gave her a wicked smile. "I'm expecting Bill Compton here in a few minutes, but I wanted to assure you that, when I am done with him, no matter when I leave, I will be at your window later tonight. What time do you get off work?"

"9:00 again, but it takes a few minutes to make the shift change so I'll get home around 9:45."

"Alright, expect me some time after 10. That should give me time to conclude my business with Compton and do a few other things I need to take care of. The man staring at us from behind the bar – is that your boss?"

"Yeah, that's Sam Merlotte."

"Interesting. How much do you know about him?"

"I don't know – just that he lives out back. I don't really even know where he's from."

"You know he is interested in you, sexually?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, I guess he kind of has a crush on me."

"It's a little more than that, Sookie. If he asks about me, you should tell him that you are mine now. He'll know exactly what that means."

"Do I know what it means?"

"Not completely, but you haven't any complaints so far, have you?" He gave her a smoldering look and she swallowed hard,

"No, so far, so good," she giggled at herself giving him such a lame answer. He smiled sweetly at her and started to speak, but then she said "Bill is here. I'll show him to your table."

"Thank you, Sookie,"

Oh, she just wanted to die when he said her name. How was she going to wait on tables knowing HER Eric was in the room?

"Hey, Bill, are you here to see Eric? He's over there in my section."

"Good evening, Sookie. Yes, he summoned me here, though I have no idea why." That was a lie. He could feel what Sookie was feeling - she was head over heels in love and it wasn't over him. Damn. This was not good.

"Would you like me to bring you a blood?"

"Yes, type O positive, please?"

"I'll be right there with it."

"Thank you." Bill steeled himself for dealing with Eric, knowing full well what Eric was going to tell him.

"Good evening, Bill."

"Eric – I was rather surprised that you asked me to meet you here of all places."

"Yes, well, this place claims one attraction that none other does."

"Do I need to ask?" Bill said wryly.

"Probably not. My Sookie works here, so I wanted to check it out and since I was in the neighborhood…"

"YOUR Sookie? You're sure about that?"

"Quite. You might say I've been where no man has gone before. I'm also quite sure she was never "yours" to begin with. I thought it might be best if you and I were clear on our relative relationships to Sookie Stackhouse."

"I won't believe it until I hear it from her."

"You already believe it, Bill. You can feel it in her. I know she's had your blood."

"Can you say the same thing?"

"Yes, we had our first mutual blood exchange last night. The first of many, I hope."

"Surely you're not planning…"

"Yes, I am, and the sooner the better."

"Does she know? She can't possibly understand what that would mean?"

"I'll explain it to her in my own way, in my own time. Rest assured, she'll come to it willingly, just as she has everything else."

"Why? How could she possibly be worth that to you?"

"I've spent the last two nights talking to her, Bill, and I'll be quite content to do so for many, many nights to come. There is much there to interest me. Much more than you can imagine."

"How is that possible? Did you follow us from Fangtasia?"

"Not technically, but I did find myself at her house as you brought her home. Speaking of which, that was quite a little fight you two had on her front porch. Tuvan throat singing? You subjected a little girl from Bon Temps to something even Tuvans won't listen to anymore?"

"I was just trying to broaden her horizons."

"You'd have had better luck if you'd broadened something else, but fortunately, I beat you to it. She'll take that almost as seriously as a Supe would, though I'm pretty sure she IS a Supe. I'm not sure what type, yet, but she's not entirely human."

"Yes, I know."

"Really? Enlighten me – what do you think she is?"

"I'm not sure yet. I'm not sure I know all the possibilities. I do know that her taste is…"

"'Unique,' is the word you're looking for. Quite unlike anything else I've tasted, and I've tasted pretty much everything there is to taste. I suspect she's a hybrid of some sort, and I also suspect that her telepathy…"

Bill looked up aghast.

"Oh, yes, I know about her telepathy, and I suspect that's only the tip of the iceberg. As Sheriff of this Area, it would have been irresponsible of me to leave such a special, and beautiful, asset without proper protection. Now she is under my protection and there will be no doubt as to whom she belongs or what channels need to be followed to engage her abilities."

"You seem very sure of yourself, Eric. When she gets to know you, she might feel differently."

"She knows me and I know her, better than you can imagine."

"Why, Eric, you almost sound as if you care about her," Bill said with contempt.

"I do care about her, and for more reasons than you think, though exactly how and why is none of your business. All you need to know is that if Sophie Ann wants to engage her special powers in service to the Crown, she'll have to come through me to do it."

Bill looked visibly frightened.

"Oh, yes, I know about your special relationship with Sophie Ann and I'm pretty sure why you landed back in Bon Temps, and it's not to inherit the old home place. In most cases I could care less what you two plan together but in this case, I care. She's MINE. Make no mistake about it, or even Sophie Ann will not be able to protect you from me."

Eric stood up and threw a hundred dollar bill on the table. "That's for my drink – you pay for yours and tip your waitress well. I'll ask her about it when I see her later tonight."

Sookie saw Eric get up and went rushing over to him, "are you leaving already?"

"Yes, I am, but I'll see you later in our usual spot, yes?" He stroked her cheek gently.

"Yes, definitely."

"Make sure you pick up your tip before the other girls get to it. I'll see you soon, my lover." He raised her hand and kissed it, making every jaw in the house drop to the floor. Sookie just beamed at him as he stood tall and swaggered out of the room.

Bill was standing up, shoulders rounded, looking utterly defeated, taking a hundred out of his wallet as Eric basically ordered him to do.

"Hi, Bill? Can I get you anything else?" Sookie was feeling a little bad for Bill because she was pretty sure Eric filled him in on their new status and Bill looked disappointed. She hated to hurt his feelings but she just didn't feel for him what she did for Eric.

"No, thank you, Sookie. I'll be going home now." He started to leave then stopped and turned toward her, started to speak, thought better of it and left. The part of him that really liked Sookie felt he should tell her who Eric really was before she was in too deep. The part of him that wanted to stay alive knew if he interfered with Eric's claim on her, he'd be finally, irrevocably dead. Given a choice, Bill would rather displease Sophie Ann than Eric. At least Sophie Ann liked Bill. Eric was fond of his swords and didn't hesitate to use them. Sophie Ann might be Queen, but the deadliest thing in this Queendom – or any other – was Eric Northman.

Sookie went to the table and was shocked to see two hundred dollar bills waiting there. She was standing there holding them, trying to decide what to do with them when Arlene noticed.

"Wow, Sookie, that must be some good service you're dishing out to earn a tip like that."

Sookie bit her tongue. She was going to see Eric later and she'd give him his money back. She told herself that he was just being nice, he wasn't trying to insult her and screw Arlene and what she was thinking, anyway. Sookie was nobody's whore and she'd kindly but firmly make it very clear to Eric that she didn't want him throwing money at her. He didn't need to buy her affection – he had it. Treating her like a kept woman wasn't going to fly and if she didn't put her foot down, she knew Gran would. Eric just wasn't used to women like Sookie, she decided, so she'd thank him profusely for his kindness and insist he take his money back, then tomorrow she'd leave Bill's money in his mailbox.

"I hear you're making some big tips tonight, Sookie," Sam tried to sound casual, but he needed like hell to know what Sookie's connection to Eric Northman was. Sam was pretty sure that was him, and if it was, that was the most dangerous vampire in Louisiana and then some.

"Yeah, my friends were a little too generous, but I'll give it back to them when I see them."

"You're friends with that big vampire, too? Is he from Shreveport, by any chance?"

"Yeah, he owns Fangtasia – oh, you must know him, or know of him at least, since he has a bar, too."

"I know his reputation. Do you?"

"I know he's a Sheriff and the other vamps are afraid of him or beholden to him or whatever."

"You think it's a good idea hanging out with a vampire that even other vampires are afraid of?"

"Eric would never hurt me, I'm HIS, so nobody else will mess with me, either."

The color drained from Sam's face. "Sookie, did he explain to you what being "his" means?"

"Yeah, it means we have a… an intimate relationship and I'm under his protection. He says I need protection because of … well, you know."

"What if he's the one you need protection from?"

"He's not, Sam, I'm sure. He cares about me, not just what I can do."

"How long could you have known him, Sookie?"

"Just a few days, but we spent a lot of time talking and I can't explain it, but I KNOW him, Sam and he won't hurt me."

"How's Bill feel about all of this?"

"I wasn't planning to go out with Bill anymore, anyway. We really didn't have much in common."

"But you and Eric do?"

"Yeah – he already knows more about me than any man ever has. He pays attention to me and asks questions about me. He was a perfect gentleman once he became interested in me – he didn't even try to kiss me! I kissed him, first."

"Does your family know about him?" Sam was hoping somebody around Sookie would get through to her.

"He's coming over to meet Gran tomorrow night."

"Already?"

"Yeah, why wait? I'm going to be spending a lot of time with Eric, so Gran should know him, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I do think your Grandmother should meet him. What time is he coming to your house tomorrow?"

"7:30, why?"

"I was thinking about asking you to work late tomorrow…"

"Sam, please don't mess this up for me, OK? I haven't been this happy in … well, maybe, ever."

"Alright, Sookie, but if you change your mind about Eric, I'm here for you, OK?"

"OK, thanks, Sam." Sookie knew Sam was just concerned for her and on paper Eric was a scary dude. There was no way she could explain how things were with him when it was just the two of them. There was no doubt in Sookie's mind that Eric cared about her. She didn't know why she was so sure, but she knew what she felt from him and it was real.

Sookie floated on air for the rest of her shift and she drove way too fast going home. She had no way of knowing that Eric was relaxing in a tree at the edge of her yard when she got there, watching and waiting until he thought it was time to go to her window.

'What the fuck is she driving?' was Eric's first thought. 'I'm going to have to buy her a better car, at the very least, and set up an allowance for her. Eventually, I'll get her to quit her job in that shit bar and come live with me in Shreveport. If she insists on working, she should work at Fangtasia where she'll be paid well and I can keep an eye on her. I know Merlotte is not paying her what she's worth as a waitress, let alone as a Supe with gifts. I hate the idea of her working in that bar in that skimpy, unattractive outfit. Every man in Bon Temps might have seen her legs! '

'I can't believe I told her our meeting was destiny. Even if I meant it, I can't believe that I said it. ESPECIALLY because I meant it! Strategically, it was a stupid move. I should keep her guessing and off balance so she's eager to please me. What got into me? Why do I feel this compulsion to reassure her? I need to "make it all better" for her, but why?

'I actually told her I've been looking for her for hundreds of years. Even if it's true, I shouldn't say that to her. It's like I can't stop myself when I'm with her. I wonder if vampires can be glamoured? What is she? She's just a girl. A very pretty, very feminine, blonde girl – but she's some unidentified sort of Supe, as well. Strategically, I DO need to be in control of her if she's living in my Area. '

'I as much as challenged my Queen to Compton's face! Am I trying to get myself killed? I can't remember the last time I was this far off my game. Why am I so driven to protect her? I actually told Compton that he and Sophie Ann would have to come through me to get to her! I am smarter than that, am I not?' I used to be anyway. Am I getting old? Sloppy? I can't possibly be in love, can I?'

'When was the last time I was in love? There was that woman 250 years ago, but I kept my wits about me. There was the woman I bonded with in the 1600's who died shortly thereafter and of course, I made Pam in the late 1800s, but that was sex and friendship, not grand romantic love. Does that even exist?'

'Four days ago, I'd have said absolutely not. It's a delusion people create for themselves to distract them from their pathetic lives. My life is not pathetic. I have my businesses, I live in comfort, I have all the sex and blood I want and I could quit at any moment and do something else. I don't have to be Sheriff, it's just the easiest way to get the perks that come with it. I like cracking heads on occasion and I like being powerful. I never met anyone I didn't think should be calling me Master. Except maybe Sookie.'

'Why that girl? Why now? Why was I so relieved when she invited me in? Was I lonely? And I'm going to meet her grandmother, like a lovesick whelp? Yes, I suppose I am, because I can't bear the thought of disappointing her. I should tell her I'll be there then not show up but I know I absolutely am not going to do that. Even now, all I'm really thinking about is tasting her sweet blood again, and touching that soft skin. Those big blue eyes looking up at me like there's something good left in me somewhere. Am I seeing something that isn't there because she reminds me of Her?'

'It's not like it's going to last. She'll see who I am eventually and she'll fear me as she ought. I want us bonded as quickly as possible. If I had a brain, I'd force her to do it now, but no, I'm going to ask her and let her choose to do it, as if she has a choice. Hopefully, by the time she realizes the way things really stand, she'll be too ensconced in my life to get out. I've already staked my claim. There's no turning back now. The minute I opened my mouth to Compton I burned the only bridge to escape. It doesn't matter anyway. I've got her, and I'm not letting her go.'

Eric looked at his watch and decided it was late enough, so he quickly flew into the shadow next to her window. She was sitting there in a tiny pink nightgown, and it occurred to Eric that she was wrapped like a present. He shook his head. If this wasn't love, it was close enough. Might as well make the most of it. He could smell scented candles burning.

"Sookie?" He spoke from the shadows.

"Eric?" Sookie was jumping out of her skin. He was finally here!

He moved into view. "You look very pretty tonight, Sookie. That's a very pretty gown.

"Thanks, I've had it a long time but I never had occasion to wear it before."

"I'm happy you finally found the occasion you were waiting for."

"Me, too. Aren't you going to come in?"

"Yes, I am." Eric floated silently through the window, and Sookie set the screen up in front of the open window to keep the bugs from getting too bad.

"New candles?"

"I've had them a while, too. I've sort of been collecting things for a bit, thinking…" she nodded her head. Eric moved close to her so she had to look up at him.

"Thinking you'd have someone to use them with eventually?" He was stroking her cheek, her throat, then down into her cleavage. She was shaking again.

"Wishing, anyway…" she said softly

"Are you cold, Sookie? You're trembling."

"No, I'm definitely not cold…"

"Your skin feels so warm…" he scooped her up in his arms and kissed her hard, taking her breath away for a minute. Her bed was already turned down, so he set her down gently and took his coat off, then his shirt and his boots (no socks) and suddenly, to his delight, she was unbuckling his belt and pulling down his pants (commando.)

He kissed her and kissed her, running his hand up her thigh and under her gown, and he purred with approval when he found she had nothing on under it. Knowing she was inexperienced, he brought her to her first release with his fingers so he was sure she was ready when he finally entered her. When he finally did slide into her, it was all he could do not to howl. She was so unbelievably warm inside and her scent was overwhelming. This wasn't sex, it was a drug, and Eric was already addicted.

He forced himself to go slowly with her and make sure she was enjoying it before he really started taking her vigorously. He was trying not to make any noise, but it wasn't easy because her bed was a bit old and creaky. He pulled one side of the gown below her breast with his teeth, then sucked and nibbled on her nipple, making her arch her back as she reached up for the spokes of the brass headboard.

Eric smiled to himself, thinking she'd probably enjoy being tied up some time. He was surprised at how quickly Sookie seemed to reach orgasm, but she was too new at this to be faking, and besides, he could feel her body gripping him inside. He managed to finish just after her and rolled over to the other side of the bed.

"Did I do that alright?"

Eric looked at her in amazement. "yes, my lover, you did that very well for one so new at it."

"If I'm doing anything wrong, please tell me."

"You cannot improve on perfection, Sookie." He smiled at her and stroked her cheek but he was berating himself inside. 'Shit! I'm doing it again! I'm saying too much. I sound like a love-starved teen-ager. What is it about this girl?'

"Please be honest with me."

"Sookie, I am so honest with you that it shocks me."

"It does?"

"Yes, I say things to you I should not say."

"Why not?"

"It is unwise to be so open with anyone, but especially with a woman I've only known for a few days. This is not like me."

"But I like the way you are with me."

"I like it, too, but it's not very smart. Nor is my telling you this. There's something about you that makes me want to explain myself to you."

"Maybe you just really like me?"

Eric laughed. If she only knew! "Yes, I think maybe that's it."

"You're used to being a badass, right? And you don't usually say nice things to people, even to girls?"

"I don't usually say nice things at all to anyone."

"That's so sad!"

"Sad?"

"Yeah, that means you don't have anyone you love or who loves you?"

"No, there are a few employees that I think like me because I'm fair and I pay very well, but that's about it. My Childe is very loyal to me, of course– I suppose I occasionally compliment her."

"Your child?"

"Yes, Pam – the girl with "the vault."

"You're her father?"

"I'm her Maker. I turned her from human to vampire and so I am her Master."

"Wow – I didn't know you were that close to her."

"Closer than anyone in the world until I met you."

"You must love her, don't you?"

"Yes, but it's not a romantic love – she's not a romantic person. It's more pride and respect with us."

"You don't say nice things to her?"

"I sometimes buy her a nice gift to show my appreciation – jewelry, vacations, things like that."

"Which reminds me, I owe you ninety-four dollars, and Bill, too."

"Why do you say that?"

"It was very generous of you two to leave me such a tip, but it's just not necessary. My co-worker practically called me a whore, and I hate that."

"Do you normally use such common language?"

"You mean…"

"Whore – it doesn't seem a word you would use."

"Well, no, I guess I don't normally."

"I'd prefer you didn't. You're far too sweet to use such language." He stroked her cheek and smiled at her.

"OK, but my point is, my co-worker implied that I did something other than serve you drinks to get that money."

"She is jealous," Eric said with absolute certainty.

"No doubt, but it was embarrassing. You don't need to throw money at me that way."

"I didn't intend to throw it at you, I intended to brighten your day with a little unexpected gift."

"That's really sweet, and I really appreciate the thought, but the thought is enough."

"What if I disagree?"

"What do you mean?"

"You are mine, yes?"

"Yes. I am," she beamed at him.

"That entitles you to certain consideration from me."

"It does?"

"Yes, in my world, others would expect me to give you money on a regular basis, to buy you gifts, to take you on trips, to support you in every way."

"Wow, I didn't know that, but honestly, it's not necessary. All I want from you is your time and attention. I don't wanna be a "kept woman.""

"What is that?"

"It's like a mistress that you put up in an apartment and lavish with jewelry and stuff because you're sleeping with her."

"That's a bad thing?"

"Yes, it's like a … that word you don't want me to say. I'm not one."

"No, you are my lover. Is it not appropriate for me to buy you presents?"

"Something small now and then, sure, but not big stuff."

"I gave you less than a hundred dollars. I've given that much to waitresses many times."

"Because you were having sex with them?"

"No, because I wanted to be generous because they served me well or were very nice. Most waitresses are very appreciative."

"Yeah, I bet, but you and I are in a relationship now. I'd be more likely to pay for your drink myself than to let you not only pay, but give me a big tip, too."

"So I shouldn't mention the gift I have for you in my pocket?"

"Did it cost less than 50 dollars?"

"Much less."

"OK, that's probably within reason for where we are right now. What is it?" Sookie became girlish and playful once she was sure it wasn't anything extravagant.

Eric laughed and shook his head, but reached for his coat. "Close your eyes."

He pulled the gift out of his coat pocket and brushed her face with it softly, surprising her. She opened her eyes, "a pink teddy bear! It's so sweet! I love it – see this is appropriate. It's small, it's cute and it will remind me of you every time I cuddle it." She hugged it, then kissed him several times on the cheek then on the lips.

"Most of the women I know would throw me out that window for bringing them a gift like that, you know."

"And isn't that sort of why you're with me and not them?"

"Point taken. Eventually, though, when we've been a couple for a while, I can spend more on you, yes?"

"Eventually, sure, when everybody understands that you're my boyfriend and not a client."

"Alright. I will be patient. One thing I insist on, however…"

"What's that?"

"You keep the money from tonight, both mine and Compton's. Tell your co-worker you gave it back if it makes you feel better, but keep it. Buy yourself something pretty, or buy something for your grandmother, but don't give it back to me or to Bill. He and I both have plenty of money and it's more trouble to return it than it's worth."

"You and Bill both have really nice cars. Are you rich?" Sookie moved a little closer as she laid her head on the pillow and Eric did the same so they were face to face, whispering.

"Compton is what I would call comfortable. I am wealthy."

"Wealthy? Is that more than rich?"

"A great deal more, actually."

"Just from running one bar?"

"No, Sookie, Fangtasia is where I find my meals. I have many businesses and properties." He smoothed her hair back from her face and she smiled at him.

"Oh, cool."

"Does that mean you'll allow me to spend more money on you?" He said hopefully.

"No, it just means you're well-off and I don't need to worry about you borrowing money from me," Sookie laughed.

"I have never heard of a man borrowing money from his lover."

"Oh, it happens all the time. Do you ever watch TV?"

"Yes, why?"

"Have you ever seen Judge Judy?"

"That's usually on in the daytime, isn't it? Should I TIVO it?"

"Yes, because she has tons of cases where men borrow money from women then break up with them and never pay them back."

"That is shameful behavior. I would not call such a person a man."

"What would you call him?"

"A worm, at best. I have no respect for a man that does not support his women."

"His women? Plural?"

"I mean all of his women, not just his lover. If a man has a widowed mother, or a sister, for example, who is not married, then he should provide for her until she marries."

Sookie had to laugh into a pillow to keep from waking Gran. "That's a little old fashioned, Eric, people don't think that way anymore."

"Since we're on the subject, did you not tell me you have an older brother?"

"Yes, Jason. Why?"

"I do not understand why you work in Merlotte's if you have a healthy older brother. Is he disabled?"

"Jason, disabled? No, he's as healthy as a horse."

"Has he no shame?"

"Shame? He's a hound dog, if that's what you mean, but no, I don't think Jason feels ashamed of much."

"Does he not understand his obligation to you? You are a beautiful, gifted, unmarried woman. He should support you under any circumstance until you marry, but in your case, you have such unique abilities, you need more protection than an average girl."

"Wow. You know, Bill said something to that effect, too, now that I think about it. Are all vampires really traditional that way?"

"Most, yes. Among us, your brother would be ridiculed. Eventually, if I do not improve your station in life, I will be ridiculed, too."

"Improve my station in life?"

"Yes."

"So what would that include? What would other vampires expect you to do?"

"To begin, I would buy you a new car."

"What?!"

"Yes, that's the first thing, but only one of many. If you, or your grandmother, have any needs, I would see to them. I would give you an allowance and buy you clothing and jewelry, other fine things. Eventually, you would hopefully come to live with me and let me support you completely."

"Gran, too? That sounds like being married."

"My kind does not normally marry, but there is no reason not to. We do blood bond very rarely."

"What's a blood bond? Is it a ceremony?"

"No, it is a physical reality. You know that, because you have tasted my blood, I can feel what you feel, yes?" He smoothed her hair back gently.

"Yes, I do."

"If you and I exchange blood three times, we will be blood bonded. Most vampires only bond once or twice in their long lives. It is a very special connection."

"What does it do? Could I feel you like you feel me?"

"Yes, you could, and I would never be able to leave you. I would suffer to be away from you."

"Wow – so that's a really big commitment – even more than getting married?"

"Oh yes, marriages can end in divorce. A blood bond only ends in death, and the remaining partner never gets over it completely."

"Have you ever blood bonded with anyone?"

"Once, in the 1600's. She didn't live long after."

"Do you still feel that loss?"

"On some level, yes."

"Do you regret it?"

"No, I would regret it if I had not. I could never regret what we meant to each other while we were together, and I am glad I cannot forget her."

"That's so sad, but it's beautiful too. You have to do it three times or four?"

"Three."

"I tasted Bill's blood twice and he never told me anything about this. What if…?"

"He should have warned you of the possibility. I'm not happy to know he did not. One might think he didn't want you to know until it was too late."

"You don't like Bill much, do you?"

"I don't trust him. He's young and too easily swayed by those with their own agendas. He has very little power, and is therefore eager to curry favor with his superiors."

"Aren't you his superior?"

"In every respect, but he could still put a knife in my back if I let down my guard. He has no loyalty to me as he does to others."

"Others? Like your Queen?"

"Exactly."

"You're loyal to her, too, though, right?"

"Yes, but I would not let her abuse or mistreat you. Compton could do nothing to prevent that. He could not protect you as I can. I am the oldest, most powerful vampire in her Queendom."

"I do feel safer with you." Sookie moved closer, moving the teddy bear behind her and he smiled and took her in his arms. He could tell she just wanted to be held and reassured and he was happy to do that.

"Sookie, if you or your Grandmother need anything, do not hesitate to let me know, alright? It would make me very happy to help you in any way."

"That's sweet, but not yet, OK?"

"OK," he kissed her softly, for a long time. He took her again, slowly, rapturously, still in awe of how she made him feel. Even being called "Master" could not compare to this joy – yes, that was the word for it – the joy that he felt when he was inside her, when he watched her beautiful face, eyes closed, as she reached another luxurious release.

She fell into a peaceful sleep about an hour before sunrise, but he stayed with her as long as he could before he slipped out the window and headed for home, taking a scarf she had worn because it had her scent on it.

The next day was a blur for Sookie. She had to go in a little earlier than usual so instead of lying in the sun, she opted for a long bubble bath so she could refresh her manicure and pedicure, use her Queen Helene Mint Julep facial mask, and deep condition her hair so she'd be in top form when she saw Eric tonight. She'd just have time to change clothes when she got home from work. She looked through a couple of fashion magazines and wondered if maybe she should start buying Cosmo to learn some tips about sex? She remembered borrowing a book from her friend, Tara, back in the 10th grade called The Sensuous Woman and wondered if they had that at the library in town.

Merlotte's was unusually quiet for a Saturday afternoon, which was good in one respect because there were fewer mistakes to make and Sookie was still extremely distracted, but bad in that Arlene had time to needle Sookie about her vampires.

"So, Sookie, that big old blonde vampire is a friend of yours?"

"Yes, Arlene, his name is Eric."

"I don't usually go for blondes, but he's a good lookin' man. I couldn't believe the size of those shoulders!"

"Yes, he's a big guy."

"Uh-huh, is he that big, you know, all over?" Arlene winked at Sookie and nudged her with her shoulder and Sookie blushed, to Arlene's delight. "I'll take that as a 'yes,'" she cackled.

"Take it any way you want it, Arlene," Sookie said defensively, "I really like Eric so he's going to be around. I don't know if he'll necessarily come here that much, but I'm probably going to be seeing a lot of him…." Shit! Sookie said that before she realized she was giving Arlene an opening.

"How much of him have you seen so far?" she asked with wicked glee.

"Arlene!" Sam yelled from the end of the bar, "You've got two tables waiting on you."

"Alright, Sam, sorry," she scurried away to wait on her new customers.

"Thanks, Sam," Sookie said with relief.

"Don't let her get to you, Sookie. She's losing her mind because René ain't been home for two nights and she thinks he split on her and the kids. Picking on you takes her mind off of things at home. She's jealous of you, so just ignore her."

"I will. Thanks." Sookie smiled at him warmly, and Sam nodded, then locked himself in his office for a bit. Sookie knew Sam wasn't happy about her seeing Eric, but that couldn't be helped. One thing Eric had said was bugging her, but she didn't know whether she should ask Sam about it or not. Eric had told her to tell Sam she was his, and that Sam would know exactly what that meant. Why would Sam know a vampire rule like that? From what she knew, he didn't seem to like vamps much, though she'd only ever seen him around Bill and Eric and she was the reason he didn't like them.

Anyway, the rest of the shift was uneventful and she got home a little earlier than she expected, carton of True Blood in hand, so she took a quick shower just to freshen up, did some fresh makeup and put on a pretty pink sundress she'd been saving for a special occasion. She pulled her hair straight back from her face the way she wore it when she first met Eric because he said it looked glorious that night.

Sookie was pacing around the living room, adjusting things on the mantle and fluffing pillows when Gran came out of her room in company clothes. "I don't remember ever seeing you this jumpy, Sookie."

"I'm really anxious for you to meet Eric, Gran. I want you to like him. Jason won't be here tonight, will he?"

"Not unless you invited him. I didn't mention it because of the way he acted toward Mr. Compton. I thought your gentleman friend and I would be able to talk a little more this way. I want to get to know him since you are so fond of him."

"Yeah, I… is that a car?!" Sookie ran to the window and saw a perfect red corvette pull up in front of the house.

Gran walked over and looked out, too. "Oh, my – what a fancy car!"

"Yeah, Eric is really well-off, I think. Really, really well off."

Sookie was practically jumping up and down as she went out on the front porch to greet Eric. She could hardly breathe when he got out of the car – he was wearing a gorgeous silver-gray suit with a pink silk shirt and tie, and he flashed her a brilliant smile as he walked around to the passengers seat and took out a very pretty flower arrangement and a box of some sort.

He walked confidently up to the front porch and said, "Sookie, you look lovely tonight," and gave her a very proper kiss.

"I'm so glad you're here! Come in and meet Gran." She practically pulled him in through the door behind her and was absolutely beaming when she said "Gran, this is Eric Northman. Eric, this is my Grandmother, Adele Stackhouse."

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Stackhouse. I've heard such wonderful things about you. These are for you, Madame," he offered her the gorgeous flower arrangement. "And these are for you, Sookie. I hope you like dark chocolate," he said as he handed her the box.

"Oh my, well, it's very nice to meet you, Mr. Northman. Please come in and sit down. Sookie, honey, get Mr. Northman one of those True Blood drinks, please."

"Thank you." Eric sat in the chair she indicated and Sookie took the flowers and set them on a side table, fussing with them a little to make them look their best, then she hurried into the kitchen. "It was so kind of you to invite me to your home, Madame. Your charming granddaughter tells me that you raised her, so I have you to thank for her being such a delight."

"Oh, Sookie was always naturally bright and bouncy. Even when times were hard, I could count on her to have a smile on her face."

"She's a very special young lady."

"Yes, I agree. I understand you own a business in Shreveport?"

"Actually, I own quite a few businesses. Fangtasia, where I met Sookie, is more of a social outlet for me. I have investments in many areas – construction, real estate, shopping centers, even a bio-research lab."

"Really? That's very impressive. You must be very busy?"

"I have good people who oversee most of the businesses. I've managed to put together a very competent team to help me. That makes all the difference."

"I can imagine it does. Sookie tells me you've got quite a history, Mr. Northman. Have you ever been married?"

"Many, many years ago, yes, but I lost her to a pandemic."

"Oh, dear!"

"Yes, it was quite a blow. It took a very long time before I was able to move forward with my life. I'm sure you know what it is like when you are in love with someone who is lost to illness. It stays with you, no matter how much time passes."

"Yes, I do know what you mean. You must have been in other relationships since then, though?"

"A few, but nothing that deep or lasting – more friendship than anything else. I didn't think I had the capacity for such feelings until I met Sookie. I've known her but a short time, but I feel as if I have known her for years. I must admit, it is quite unlike me to drop everything as I have since I've known her."

"I hope you aren't neglecting things on my account, Eric," Sookie was genuinely concerned as she handed him his blood drink.

"No, not at all, I have partners and managers enough to see to my business interests, I just rarely have reason to take time off. My social life has been quite barren for some time now. I meet people at the club of course, but those are shallow acquaintances, at best. Sookie walking into my club was the best thing that has happened to me in centuries."

"Well, I know Sookie has certainly enjoyed meeting you."

Sookie gave Eric a shy smile, knowing Gran had no idea how much.

"Knowing Sookie has brightened my world considerably. She brought light back into my life. Getting to know her has awakened a part of me that I thought had died long ago."

"What a lovely sentiment. I do hope you understand that I'm concerned about who Sookie spends time with. She's got some unusual gifts that make it important for her to be careful of her… companions."

Eric sat forward and looked directly at Adele "Yes, I think I understand that in a way few people would. I am aware of the value of Sookie's gifts, and of the difficulties that could befall one as trusting as she because of them. Believe me when I tell you that my first and most urgent priority is to protect Sookie from any kind of danger. I would never allow anyone to exploit her or cause her any harm."

"I'm very glad to hear that, Mr. Northman. Knowing that will take a great weight off my shoulders."

"My only wish is to improve Sookie's situation and make her happy. If there is anything I can do for either of you, you have only to ask. I am at your service, and would take great pleasure in helping you in any way that I can."

"Eric is always wanting to give me presents, but I told him that's not necessary."

"That's very kind of you, Mr. Northman, but Sookie has been taught not to take advantage of other people's kindness. The offer of your assistance is more than enough."

"So she tells me. It's going to be very hard for me – my natural instinct is to pamper and spoil her."

"Sookie needs to be loved and protected. I wouldn't want her to settle for anything less and I wouldn't expect her to demand anything more. I need to know that she'll be safe when she is with you, Mr. Northman. Just keeping her safe is all I ask."

"That, I can easily promise. I'll do anything in my power to see that no harm comes to her when she is with me."

"Alright, well, I suppose you two have plans for the evening?"

"I had hoped to take Sookie for a drive. I know some very pretty spots in the area and I thought I might buy her some dinner somewhere and we'll talk some more. My greatest pleasure, these days, is talking to Sookie."

"Do you need me for anything here, Gran?" Sookie said, hoping she'd say no.

"No, you two go for a drive and have fun. I hope you aren't in the habit of speeding, Mr. Northman?"

"I don't dare – my car attracts far too much attention to get away with that."

"I can imagine. Sookie, you need to take a sweater." Adele stood up and shook Eric's hand. "It was very nice to meet you. I hope to see you again, soon?"

"Yes, I'm sure I'll be around."

"Good night." Adele patted Sookie's arm as she came back from the closet with a white sweater she had no intention of wearing and went into the kitchen.

"Right this way, Miss Stackhouse." Eric held his hand up with a flourish, ushering her toward the door.

"Wow," was all Sookie could say as Eric zipped in front of her and held the door for her. "I've never even seen a car this fancy before."

Eric smiled, his car being a source of extreme pride for him, and helped her get settled, being sure to tuck her skirt into the car before he closed the door. He was in the driver's seat instantly, and helped Sookie with her seat belt.

"I know you aren't going to follow the speed limit, you know?" she laughed.

"I could hardly say that to your grandmother. I promised to keep you safe."

"Yep, you did. That felt so weird."

"It did?"

"I felt like you two were bartering over me or something."

"Not at all, Sookie, she merely told me what she expects and I assured her I would meet her expectations. I would have expected nothing less than for her to be clear about what she expects for you. Your grandmother seems a very honorable woman. It is a great honor to me that she agreed to let you leave with me."

"Well, she knows how I feel about you so you'd have to have been pretty bad for her to object."

"Are you going to tell her you are coming to my house tomorrow night."

"Yes, I'm going to have to. I hope she doesn't get angry."

"So do I. Give her my home number so she can contact you if need be, and that will give her some comfort, though I'm quite sure she will object no matter how much assurance you give her."

"If you were her, would you object?"

"If I were she, I would lock you in your room and paint the house with silver before I'd let you be alone with me, but that is because I know me," Eric laughed and Sookie did, too. "Where would you like to eat, my lover?"

"I ought to make you take me to Merlotte's and rub Arlene's nose in it. You wouldn't believe how she was riding me about you today!"

"Riding you?"

"Yeah, teasing me, picking on me."

"What did she say?"

"She asked if you were big all over and how much of you I've seen!"

"And what did you say?"

"I blushed and she said she'd take that as a yes, then Sam yelled at her when she asked how much of you I've seen."

"They are both jealous."

"Yeah, I know. You know the guy from the other night?"

"Yes?"

"He was Arlene's boyfriend. She freaking out because he hasn't come home."

"That is to be expected. Are the police looking for him?"

"Not yet – they probably won't. They'll just assume he split like her other boyfriends."

"She's had other boyfriends?"

"Oh, yeah, there's a new one every so often. One of the other girls who was killed used to call them her loser of the month when she'd bring a new guy in. She's been married like 4 times. She'll have another guy before the month is over."

"People often make the mistake of accepting quantity when they cannot find quality. That is very sad."

"Yeah, it is. Have you ever done that?"

"Yes, at times, but that loses its appeal quickly. Still, in the course of a millennium, one goes through phases."

"Yeah, I'll bet. I was trying to imagine all the stuff you've seen and it's so hard to even wrap my mind around," she laughed and he smiled softly at her. "Where all have you lived?"

"I moved around a lot out of necessity. I left Sweden after I was turned and only rarely go back. I spent time in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Egypt, Italy, France, England, Germany, Russia, so many places, so many times I can hardly count."

"Wow. Do you speak other languages?"

"About 16."

"WOW!"

"English was one of the last that I learned, and I learned it first in Asia from British sailors, so that made it very difficult."

"You speak it really well now – better than most people I know.

"Thank you. I worked hard to get to this point."

"When did you come to America?"

"I came here a few times on ships, but I came here to stay at the turn of the 19th-to-20th century."

"Why did you come here?"

"I had to get Pam out of England and this seemed to be where the most progress was being made."

"Why did you have to take Pam away?"

"She was spotted by her sister one night in London. Her family had buried her, so if they'd found us it would have been disastrous. We left that very night on a ship bound for America."

"Wow – just like that?"

He looked at her, "just like that."

"Did Pam want to be turned?"

"Yes, very much, though she didn't quite understand what I offered."

"So you killed her?"

"No, Sookie, I transformed her. I made her immortal. I saved her from a loveless arranged marriage. I gave her a life of adventure and fun. She never looked back or regretted coming with me. We lived happily together for many years."

Sookie was quiet for a few minutes, trying to decide if she wanted to ask this question, and if so, how to go about it.

"Yes, Sookie."

"Yes, what?"

"Pam and I had sex. Lots and lots of it. It's why I made her."

"Oh…"

"Does that disturb you?"

"Well, you can glamour people, right?"

"Right,"

"And so you can almost always feed when you need to, right?"

"Yes."

"And that means you can have sex almost any time, too, right?"

"Yes."

"So why did you want to make Pam?"

"There's a certain level, where sex is concerned, that you can only reach with a partner you've been with for many years."

"Oh… so, that was like the ultimate sex you've ever had?"

"No, it was only sex."

"I don't understand."

"You will, some day," he stroked her cheek.

"I want to know…"

"The ultimate sex is when you are with someone you love, and have been with them for many years. Pam and I reached that place where you know the other's body as well as your own, and you instinctively know what your lover wants, but we were never in love. I made Pam because I thought I had lost the capacity to love that way."

"That's so sad…"

"But we were great together for a long time. We had fun, I wasn't so lonely, our lives were both better for a time. Pam was what they call a "partner in crime" – we had compatible tastes and tendencies. It was a good match, but not a great one."

"Because that extra something was missing…"

"Right."

"I hope you find it again."

'Don't say it! Don't say it,' Eric was screaming in his head. "I already have." DAMN!

Sookie laughed. "That sounds like a line from a romance novel."

"Yes, it does. I can't believe I said it," he said aloud but he was talking to himself.

"Things will be different with us when we're around other vampires, won't they?"

"I'll have to be…"

"Badass."

"Yes, but not to you."

"There's a lot of violence in your world, isn't there?"

"Yes, there is."

"I'll probably see some of it, right?"

"Right."

"But you'll protect me."

"With my life."

"That's scary"

"Are you afraid of me, Sookie?"

"No. I probably should be, but I'm not. I know you'd never hurt me."

"You will be, some day."

"No, Eric, I won't. That's just it, I know I won't. Like when I met Bill, he was exciting and different, but when I met those friends of his, and then I saw what he did to that cop for no reason… I could never look at him the same way. I know that I'll see you do some unspeakable things and it won't matter."

"I hope that is true, but we must both be aware that it might not be."

"So why are you so sure about me, then?"

"You remind me of someone. I feel as if I've known you before. I know it doesn't make sense…"

"Yeah, my feelings about you don't make sense either."

"My age is a part of it, I think. I am able to size people up very quickly. I know what I like and what I don't. I know what I want. Anyway, we will see. We will be as happy as we are, as long as we can, agreed?"

"Agreed," he took her hand in his and raised it to his lips. "Now you must decide – do you eat now, or do we go on to the lake?"

She looked around, "wow – I forgot we were even moving. I'm not really hungry – let's go to the lake."

"As you wish, my lover," he smiled at her as he turned his signal on and turned off the highway. Sookie couldn't even remember turning onto the highway.

"This is the lake you told me about the other night, right?"

"Yes, there's a very nice spot that is usually deserted. The moon is full tonight, so it should be very pretty." He turned into an area that was fenced off and locked with a chain. "Wait here." He got out of the car, unlocked the fence, drove them through and walked back to lock the gate again.

"Are we supposed to be here?"

"Yes, that's my fence."

"Do you live here?"

"No, but I own this tract of land, from the road to the water for about half a mile in each direction."

"How do you keep track of everything you own?"

"With some difficulty, but ultimately, it's all written down in two places only I know about."

"Nobody else knows about the master list or whatever?"

"No. I own some businesses that cannot be traced to me at all."

"Are they illegal?"

"No, but they serve purposes I'd rather not explain to the authorities."

"Oh."

Eric turned down a dirt road and went around a curve and came out on a sand bar by a lake. He let down the convertible top, turned off the car and the lights and in a moment, Sookie's eyes adjusted. The moonlight on the water was like a path of silver and there was no sound except for the frogs and crickets.

"Eric, this is gorgeous!"

"I'm glad you like it. I come here often when the weather is good. You are the only living creature who knows that I own it. Pam doesn't even know where it is."

"You've never brought another girl here?"

"Never."

"Why did you buy it?"

"So I could do this. And I might build a house here some day."

"Don't you own a house?"

"I own four, but I might decide I want one here, too. Imagine this view from your bed."

"Your house would have to be made of glass."

"Only one wall of it. It could be two-way glass so we could see out and no one could see in."

"We?"

"Why not?" He took her hand in his and intertwined their fingers.

Sookie felt as if she was dreaming and she hoped she'd never wake up. "Eric, why are you in such a hurry? About us, I mean?"

"Honestly, I want to establish a good foundation between us before you encounter the rest of my world. I want you to know that you can trust me, and lean on me, no matter what happens."

"You still think I'll be afraid of you?"

"Yes, I'm afraid I'll feel that way until we've weathered a few storms, so to speak."

"You have to learn to trust me just like I have to learn to trust you. I never thought of that before."

"You didn't?"

"No, it never occurred to me that someone would have to learn to trust me. I guess I just always assumed I was obviously trustworthy."

"You are, Sookie, but from my perspective, you are very young."

"You're showing me all this stuff you've never shown anyone, though."

"Yes, because I want you to know the private me before you know the public me. I haven't felt hope in a long, long time, Sookie, you must understand that."

Sookie scooted closer to Eric and laid her head on his shoulder. He leaned so his cheek rested on her hair and they were quiet for a few minutes.

"You and me against the worlds – mine and yours, agreed?" Sookie finally said.

"Agreed." He turned and kissed her hair. She looked up at him and he kissed her lips. They kissed for a long time and Eric's hands began to roam all over Sookie.

"There's no room in here, is there?"

"Watch this," Eric laughed as he was up and around the car in a heartbeat, scooping Sookie out of her seat and laying her on the hood of the car. Eric was under her skirt and between her legs, her panties in shreds on the ground.

Sookie felt absolutely wild, out in the middle of nowhere, fucking a huge, beautiful vampire, wishing it would last forever. She couldn't help but cry out as he drove her to her first release with his tongue and fingers, and she laughed at herself for scaring the animals. Eric untied the halter top of her dress and pulled the top down to expose her breasts, then he took her roughly as he stretched her hands out above her head, nipping on her breasts in an entirely new way. This was the first time they'd been able to really let go together and they made the most of it. Eric pushed her legs back so he could go in deep and she was matching and meeting him with every thrust, arching her back and crying out with each stroke.

Sookie never felt so alive. This was it! This was what all the fuss was about. Suddenly, Sookie felt a rush, a tightening, that she never felt before and she seized up and jerked several times. Eric finished slowly, as Sookie lay stunned and shaking, her breath difficult and ragged, as he suddenly thrust harder and growled in a way Sookie had never heard, then he bit her breast and fed from her as she lay under him, completely exhausted.

"Min Gudinna, Sookie, I swear I never tasted anything so sweet," he growled as he nuzzled her ear.

"What was that? I never felt anything like that in my life!"

"You have climaxed with me before, haven't you?"

"Not like that! I didn't even know that was possible! Is that what you meant when you said we could fuck as loudly as we want?"

"Yes, of course – did you not like it?"

"I LOVED it! I want you to do that to me again and again and again. I feel like there's nothing left of me!" She dropped her head back, laughing and shaking it from side to side, as Eric touched her face with the whole of his big hand and pulled it down her body, then did it again with both hands. 'I'm HIS,' Sookie thought to herself, "the way he's touching me means I'm HIS and as far as I'm concerned that's all I ever want to be.'