Chapter 1

Eric grabbed his cell phone from the bedside table and clicked Oliver on the speed dial. He still held Sookie's hand in the other. He didn't seem able to release her.

"Is Genevieve here? -- Have her prepare something sweet and you bring in the donors. – Yes, all three. – And do not allow Mina in yet. We do not want to risk losing her if there is an accident." He closed the phone and returned it to the table.

"An accident?" Sookie asked.

"You are not as you were, my love," Eric began. "At present your body is in need of feeding. A hungry predator will react instinctively to its prey. Turn around and give me your other arm." He prodded her and she turned so her back was to him.

"You think I'll attack them? I don't feel any urges to eat you." She couldn't help but giggle like a schoolgirl. "Well, not as a meal anyway."

"Behave," he replied seriously. "Your arm please. I have no desire to spend my evening disposing of bodies. Until we have established your capacity to resist, we must be cautious." She had dropped her arm to her side. He gently brought it behind her back with her other and held them both at the elbow with his arm.

Much to her surprise, she felt herself pulling against Eric's hold when Oliver entered the room with the three human donors. She was mesmerized at the sight of them. It was almost as if they were aliens of some kind, human and yet very different. And the sounds they made. It was extraordinary, like the rushing of a swollen creek after a heavy rain, and beyond that, a constant pounding. Her fangs were fully extended and she didn't even realize it.

Eric sat on the bed with his legs open. He sat Sookie between them and slung one leg around her. He released her arms and leaned in to whisper in her ear. "Do you hear them, Dearest?"

"Yes," she said, her hands slowly rising and reaching toward them.

"The blood of which calls to you loudest?"

"Oh, that one," she said softly, pointing at a woman about her own age, with short strawberry blonde hair. "Can I have her?"

"You are Queen, my love. You may have any you wish." He took Sookie's arms back and held them at her sides as he nodded for the woman to come sit on the bed beside them. "Sit sideways, with your back to us," he instructed. "And try to be as still as possible."

As the woman got closer, Sookie strained against Eric's grip, but of course it was a futile effort. Even as a vampire, she was nowhere near a match for him. The woman sat as she was told and turned her head to the left.

"Shhh," Eric hummed at Sookie, in an attempt to calm her. "The sounds you hear are her heart beating and pumping her blood through her veins. The sounds are louder as your thirst increases and they will fade as you are sated.

Remember, Sookie, they are very fragile. They tear and break easily. You must take care. You must learn to be efficient and quick, so as to be most productive for yourself and least damaging for your donor.

Now, Dearest, this is very important. We will lean forward and I want you to place your lips at the base of her neck, at the shoulder. Do not bite. Keep your mouth closed over your fangs."

"Oh my god," she said, running her tongue over her teeth. "I have fangs!"

Eric chuckled softly. "And they are very elegant indeed. I look forward to feeling them myself. But in the mean time, your attention please. You can already hear her heartbeat, now feel it. Drag your lips up her neck until you feel the place where it pounds strongest."

He watched intently as Sookie did as she was told. She moved slowly up the woman's neck, then suddenly dropped back a bit and stopped. "There," he said. "Where it is strongest. Bite there."

The strawberry blonde flinched as Sookie bit into her, began to suck and struggled to free her arms from Eric's grasp.

"Don't fight, Dearest, you will hurt her." Sookie jerked and the woman cried out, but she didn't try to get away. Eric held Sookie in place and spoke softly in her ear. "Listen to the blood, Sookie. Are you listening?"

"Mmmm," Sookie responded.

"Close your eyes and listen. At the first sign of it slowing, you must stop. Oliver and I will help you."

Eric shifted Sookie's arms back into one of his, thus freeing one of hi hands to take the woman's wrist and track her pulse.

Cradling Sookie so close, coupled with holding the hand of her prey as he watched her feed was more arousing than Eric had thought to prepare for. And when a trickle of blood began to drip down the woman's back, the compulsion to lean in and lick it was almost more than he was able to withstand.

His attention was diverted by a slight change in the woman's pulse. "Do you feel it, Sookie? Withdraw now."

She made a disappointed mewling sound, but after a few seconds she did as she was told. "But –"

"Yes, my love, you still thirst. That is to be expected. Oliver, take her out."

Oliver led the woman from the bedroom and Eric motioned to the male to come and sit on the bed. It was much easier this time. Sookie found her mark swiftly and she didn't fight to free herself. Before the pulse had slowed she retracted her fangs and turned, placing her head on Eric's chest. He released her arms and dismissed Oliver along with the donors.

"You no longer hear the heartbeat?"

"No," she said and hugged him tight. Then she looked up into his eyes and said, "I would have killed that woman if you weren't holding me, wouldn't I? I'm a killer now."

"There is no knowing for certain, but it is likely the woman would not have survived had you been alone with her. Perhaps you wouldn't have drained her, but from the way you were struggling, you would probably have injured her.

And no, you are not a killer. You are a predator, very different. Of course, you are capable of killing, but you were capable of killing last week as well. You would merely be better at it now. Predation is not murder. It is feeding, nothing more. It is a simple survival mechanism, like birds flying south for the winter. But since you will have an endless supply of willing donors at your disposal, the chances of you killing one of them will be slim, once you learn to keep yourself properly fed."

"And how do I do that?"

"Quell the call of the blood. Because you are newly turned, your instinct will be to overfeed. This is fine and will do no harm to you, but take care to withdraw from your donor if you feel the blood slowing. Until you can heed the slowing and withdraw on your own, Oliver or I will be with you at all times, for the protection of everyone in our household.

And of course, you can sample the varieties of Tru Blood to see which is most tolerable for you so we can be certain to have a supply on hand as a supplement. Best at first to feed several times per evening, smaller amounts, never reach the slowing, avoid the thirst altogether."

"Something just occurred to me," Sookie said suddenly.

"And what is that, my love?" Eric asked with a smile.

"I haven't told you I still love you. That's what I was afraid of most. That turning would change how I felt about you. That I wouldn't love you so much."

"And do you?" he asked, placing his hands on her back and pulling her close. This had been a major concern of his as well. Her body answered before her voice as he felt her reaction to his touch, the familiar ripple running up her spine. Even the soft sigh remained as it reached her neck. Lovely. He had so feared the possibility of having to give it up.

"More than I ever dreamed possible," she said before kissing him. The passion of her embrace was not to be denied. The world would have to wait.

Everything about him was new. The way he felt against her skin and his scent and oh, the taste of him. Had he always been this salty sweet? Surely not. Even her mortal death could not have made her forget this taste.

She was lost in the fog of rediscovering him inch by delicious inch. She barely noticed as he removed their clothing. In her enthusiasm, her fangs nicked him several times, twice drawing blood. It was so difficult to open her mouth without them cutting into whatever she had her mouth on. They were so sharp and it took so little pressure.

From his moaning and the encouragement of his body, it was no secret Eric was enjoying this little exercise quite a lot. Until she reached his lower abs, at which point he pulled her up and flipped her onto her back.

"What are you doing? I wanted –", she protested.

"I know what you wanted."

"You mean you don't?" The disappointment was clear in her voice.

"Sookie, you cannot possibly imagine how much I do, but in the interest of being able to continue fully enjoying sex with you I must consider what an inconvenience it would be for our pleasure to be interrupted by the need for re-growing any parts accidentally severed by a slip of the fang."

"Oh my god!" she shouted. "I never thought, really? I could do that, couldn't I? And I wouldn't even know it until it was too late and – oh no." Her eyes were wide as she considered the possibilities of the damage she could do without even thinking about it. "And here, I already bit you several times without meaning to, oh but you taste so good and – well, you really do you know."

Eric pulled her close and nuzzled her neck before whispering in her ear. "I assure you, my love, were I not taking great pleasure in your activities I would have stopped you before I did. As it happens, I was finding it quite thrilling to be your personal pincushion. So much so I shall return the favor."

Nothing could have prepared her for the jolt that reverberated through her when he bit into her neck. 'More intense' he'd said. If this is what he meant by more intense, she might not survive it when he entered her. Being bitten had always been very intimate, but this, this was like the aftershocks of an orgasm, cascading through her as she felt each drop of her blood which left her body.

"Now," she groaned, lifting her legs and wrapping them around his waist. "I need to feel you inside me."

She had never felt more alive. Every fiber of her being received him. It was as though he filled her completely. She felt him from her hair to her toes. They were one flesh, so overcome with lust, love, pleasure, whatever this was it was almost too much to endure.

The pace he set was furious and Sookie fought to keep up despite her longing to devote her attention to the exciting new sensations rumbling through her with his every move. Her skin sizzled. Each time he touched her she could almost hear the crackle as she seemed to burst like confetti poppers in all directions. By the time she reached her release she was completely spent and convinced her choice was the right one. This feeling was worth any price.


**4 months earlier**

It was a typical weekday night in Merlotte's. There wasn't much going on so Sam had left early, leaving Terry tending bar. Hoyt was slowly nursing his Dixie Draft and watching Jason get plastered.

"Don't ever do it, Hoyt. Once you've done it, you can't ever take it back and they all remember it forever." Jason took a long look around the bar, stopping for a few seconds on each woman as if trying to find one who was different. "It's like they all have the same memory or something. So they all get mad about shit that ain't got anything to do with them." Jason dropped his face into his hands and shook his head.

Hoyt wasn't buying it. "But I thought you liked being married. You always said you did. At first anyway, before Crystal – well, before she –"

Jason jumped up and clapped a hand over Hoyt's mouth. "What the hell is wrong with you? Haven't you heard a word I've been saying? Don't let anybody hear you say that. It's bad enough everybody knows I got married in the first place. Now they know it's possible for me to do it, that's all they think about. I can't get laid in this town any more without the woman measuring my windows for drapes and making sure I know what size ring she wears."

"I reckon we need some new women in town. Or else we need to start doing our drinking someplace else," Hoyt said.

"You got that right," Jason said.

Then as if on cue, a beautiful young woman they'd never seen before came through Merlotte's front door. Once inside, she paused briefly and shook her head, running her fingers through her thick brown hair and giving it a toss. She looked around the room as if she expected to see people she knew, then she smiled and sashayed straight to the jukebox.

Her clinging mini dress allowed even the most unimaginative man in the room to envision exactly what she would look like as he mounted her. And when she leaned over to read the song selections, a testosterone traffic jam materialized behind her.

Not being one to pass on a challenge, Jason made his way to the wall and edged in beside the jukebox. Naturally, he was on the side with the money slots.

"See anything you like?" Jason asked, expertly locking her in his gaze when she looked up.

"Does that line usually work?" she asked and dropped her eyes back to the song list.

Most of the five or six men gathered around her laughed and even Jason managed a smirk and a short chuckle. "A simple question. Just wondering how many songs you wanted to play, so I'd know how much money to shove into this thing."

She stood up and looked at the gaping group behind her. "That's all any of you think about, isn't it? Shoving things into other things. It must be really boring inside your heads." When she was met with chuckles all round she lowered her eyes and glanced at each of them to see just how excited they were to see her. "Both of them," she added with a sigh.

She pushed the closest guy and stepped forward. They made way for her and when she got past them, she was standing right next to Hoyt. "Mind if I sit with you for a minute?"

Hoyt turned bright pink and didn't answer, but he stood up and reached to pull out a chair for her.

Jason beat him to it. "Allow me," Jason said as he moved the chair backward and into the knee of one of the guys hanging a little too near. "May I introduce my best friend, Hoyt Fortenberry," he added with a sweeping gesture. "Please, sit."

The girl sat down and Jason waved to their waitress. "What can we get for you?" he asked as he took his own seat.

"Just a Coke," she replied to Jason. Then to Hoyt, she said, "He always just sort of take over like that?"

Hoyt was still quite pink, but he managed to answer. "He's the crew foreman at work. I guess he's just used to being in charge."

"Does he have a name?"

"'Course I do," Jason said with a stunning grin, as he leaned across the table toward her. "Jason Stackhouse, the new love of your life."

"Silly me. I probably should have recognized you."

"I forgive you," Jason said. "Now if you'll tell us your name, we'll all be even. "

"I guess if you're the love of my life, it would be rude not to tell you my name," she glanced between them once, as if making a comparison, then continued. "I'm Candia Gray."


"How do you feel?" Eric asked.

"Clean," Sookie answered and stuck out her tongue. She was sitting on the edge of the tub and toweling her hair, and she knew perfectly well that wasn't the answer he was looking for. Since he was apparently going to stand and stare at her until he got a satisfactory answer, she said, "I'm fine. I'm more than fine. I feel great."

"And you do not thirst?"

"Not at all." She smiled in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. She must have succeeded because he returned her smile.

"Excellent. I was not the only person awaiting you."

Sookie smirked up at him. "My public awaits?"

"I'm certain they do, my love, but let us keep to our household for now." He leaned and kissed the top of her head. "The world outside our walls can wait a bit longer."

"I'm anxious to see Mina."

"She took very good care of you as you slept. I believe she is eager to see you as well."

Eric stepped out of the bathroom as Sookie continued drying. He went to his dressing room, but she could hear him call Oliver. "Do we have donors ready? – We will be out in about ten minutes. Have someone warm one of the bags from a Taste of Louisiana box. Pour it into a glass and have it ready. – Make sure everyone has been instructed."

Sookie put on a calf length denim halter dress, very tight and flared at the hip. She sat at her dressing table staring blankly into the mirror brushing her hair and wondering what kind of monster people she cared about were expecting to come walking into the living room.

She was snapped out of her trancelike state by Eric's voice behind her. "Allow me," he said, taking the brush from her and beginning to brush her hair in slow, gentle strokes. "You have nothing to fear or worry about, my love."

"Do I look worried?"

"You do. Indeed, you feel worried, but it is for naught. Leaving this room will be no different now than it ever was."

"Really? Have people always needed to be instructed before I entered a room?"

Eric chuckled softly. "Of course, you are correct on that point. A brief warning for their own protection, that is all. You are in your adjustment phase. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone, it is important you not be startled. They must be encouraged to avoid doing anything which might trigger an instinctual reaction from you. You must not be alarmed by sudden movements, unexpected loud noises or anything which might provoke you to react in a defensive manner.

Living among humans is a learned behavior for a vampire. Particularly for a new vampire, which seems contradictory considering they have so recently been human themselves. It is your nature now to see humans and react to them as prey. You must learn to see them as something much less innocuous. As something which is simply another part of your surroundings."

"Like furniture," she said sadly.

"More like birds. There are large numbers of them, some are more attractive than others, some can make for amusing pets. But they are easily frightened and may change their minds and move quickly without notice.

In the eyes of a predator, sudden movements are interpreted as attempts to escape, thus eliciting the instinct to pounce or give chase. Until you have learned to control the reaction, they must control their movements.

Do not be concerned, my love. Your desire to be among them will help you learn quickly." He put the brush on the table and leaned to kiss her hair. "Perfect."

Sookie looked up at him and smiled. "Let the testing begin."

He laughed as he took her hand and led her to the door. She felt like an un-housebroken puppy being led on a leash into a room with white carpeting. The owner was willing to let her come in, but needed to be able to yank her back in a hurry if she started to pee … or worse.

When Eric opened the door, Pam was standing just outside. "Sookie! We've all been waiting for you so long! Actually they've only been waiting about a day and a half, but I've been begging Daddy for a baby sister for centuries."

"Not now, Pam," Eric said.

She bent her head in submission, but lifted it again when Sookie began laughing. "You didn't lose your laugh," Pam said. Turning to Eric she said, "You've gotten better at it."

Eric closed his eyes. He shouldn't have let Pam come here tonight. "There is much to be said for only children."

As was her habit, Mina saved the moment and averted a disaster which could have potentially been worse than any damage Sookie might cause. She moved quickly but calmly into the kitchen, took the bloodbag out of the microwave and drained it into a wine glass.

She took small quiet steps to Sookie. Without ceremony, she stepped between Eric and Pam and looked Sookie directly in the eye. "Welcome home, Your Majesty," she said with a sort of low, partial curtsy. "We have all been very anxious to see you again. You look wonderful."

Mina held out the glass. Sookie didn't respond immediately. It was as if she was seeing Mina for the first time. Had she always been this beautiful? Maybe Oliver had said something particularly flattering to her to give her this glow. Sookie reached for the glass, but before she could take it her hand dropped to Mina's arm, just above her wrist. She could see the veins pulsating beneath Mina's skin.

Everyone in the room froze. Oliver was paralyzed. There was nothing he could do for Mina. He could make no move to defend her so long as it was his Mistress who posed the threat. Pam looked on as if this was the most entertaining scene she'd witnessed on decades.

Eric spoke first, though he made no move since Sookie was only holding Mina's arm. "Dearest?"

"No," Mina said calmly. "It's alright." She slowly moved her left hand and took the glass from her right. Handing the glass toward Pam she said, "Would you mind, please."

At first, Pam looked as if Mina had asked her to scrub the floors, but she took the glass.

"Thank you," Mina whispered. "Oliver has your donors in the suite next door, but I would be honored to offer myself to you." Almost imperceptibly she began to turn her wrist toward Sookie.

Sookie watched the movement as if it were the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen. When the wrist was completely turned up to her, Sookie looked up. "Mina?"

Mina smiled and raised her wrist a bit.

Sookie looked back down at Mina's wrist and her own hand holding it. She released Mina's arm, stepped forward and took Mina in her arms. Immediately Eric's arm was between them and Oliver dropped into a heap on the floor.

"Wait!" Mina said, and without even thinking about it, she placed her left hand in the middle of Eric's chest. "Your Majesty, please," she coaxed. "She will not harm me."

"My dear friend." Sookie's voice was barely audible. "You're such a comfort to me." Sookie held her in a close hug, making no attempt to bite.

Eric stepped back and Oliver looked like he'd just witnessed a miracle.

Sookie released Mina and turned to Pam. "I think I'll have that now," she said, taking the glass. She took a sip and scrunched up her nose. "Almost as bad as Tru Blood once it starts to cool." Eric laughed out loud and the tension in the room eased.

When it was clear Sookie was allright, for the moment at least, Mina dropped to one knee and lowered her head in Eric's direction. "My apologies for touching Your Majesty without invitation. And for treating Sheriff Ravenscroft with disrespect."

"Mina," Sookie said, looking between Eric and Pam. She reached down and took Mina's hand. "Mina, don't be silly. You have offended no one. Come, you must sit with me."

When Mina looked up, she looked at Eric.

"Eric, tell her to sit with me."

Eric looked down at Mina. "No offense was taken, Mina. You acted in service of our Queen."

Mina stood and Sookie pulled her close, making it clear to everyone Mina was under her protection and not to be bothered.

There was a collective sigh of relief in the room as Sookie walked into the living area and sat in the middle of the sofa. Eric sat to her right and Mina clung to her left. The others filed by to bow and welcome Sookie back as if she'd been gone for years.

Genevieve was as bubbly as ever and offered to warm Sookie another Taste of Louisiana. Pams pets all greeted her warmly and Ausra smiled and was pleased to report she had received word that Saule was recovering very well and would be ready to return to training in a week or so. She would be returning as an instructor and she was looking forward to seeing Sookie again.

"Who will she instruct?" Sookie asked.

"This has been the topic of my negotiations with the Lithuanian Ambassador, my love," Eric began. "Lithuania has long been an area offered to the Britlingens for their training exercises within this dimension. In exchange for being their host, King Vincentas receives the services of a constant team of four guards, which he uses as daylight guardians for himself and Lady Anna and as personal guards for Lady Anna during evening hours.

Since coming out of the coffin, more vampires are seeking their services and they are in need of additional training space."

"So you're bringing them here!" Sookie said excitedly. "That's brilliant! So Saule will come back here. That's perfect."

"You have no objections?" Eric asked. He had expected pouting at the very least and at worst that he would be forced to simply demand she accept guards whether she liked it or not.

"I'm not always completely unreasonable," she said with a smile and a sudden blush. "I may be a vampire now, but if I understand correctly I'm probably gonna be the weakest vampire in any room I walk into. So I guess it would be pretty stupid of me to refuse protection. Especially until we find out if I'm still as much of a trouble magnet as I always was."

"You remain a constant surprise to me, Dearest." He lifted her hand to his lips and lingered there. "Eternity may not be long enough."

Sookie leaned back and laid her head on Eric's chest. "Will you play for us, Belladonna?" she asked.

"Of course, Majesty. Would you like to hear something in particular?"

"Play something pretty."

Belladonna went to the piano and settled on Mozart's Sonata No.11. As she played, Talon and Heller turned on the TV, with the volume muted, and started playing a video game. Jinx perched behind them to watch. Pandora went into the kitchen, followed by Genevieve. Pam stood near Belladonna and stared out the window, into the night.

Sookie squeezed Mina's hand and nuzzled Eric's chest. Her home was still a happy place. A place where she was content and surrounded by the love and contentment of others, a place where Gran would have been comfortable.

Sookie closed her eyes and listened to Belladonna play. The tune was beautiful and there seemed to be a brook of gently flowing water babbling just behind the melody. She'd have to ask Belladonna how she did that.

Her hold on Mina's hand tightened just a bit and without even thinking about it, she began stroking the veins in Mina's wrist with her thumb.

Mina glanced up at Oliver. He was watching her intently. She smiled at him and nodded slightly. Unnoticed by anyone, Oliver slipped quietly from the penthouse.

When he returned a few minutes later, he had a brunette woman with him. The woman smiled at everyone and visibly sighed when her eyes rested on Eric.

Sookie couldn't help herself. She laughed out loud as she looked at the woman. "I don't think so," she said to the woman as she stood.


Trying to stifle her giggles, she looked at Eric and explained, "She's wondering if sleeping with you is part of the bargain."

Oliver closed his eyes and Eric looked at the woman as if she were now the one who might pee on the carpet. Sookie waved and said, "This way," as she headed toward the bedroom.

Eric stood and reached for Sookie's hand. "I'll join you, my love."

Oliver looked at the woman, who was standing staring after Sookie and Eric. "Should I get someone else?" he asked.

"Oh, no, I'm sorry," the woman stuttered and walked to the bedroom. Eric closed the door after them.

"Sit there," Eric instructed. He pointed to the center of the foot of the bed. The woman obeyed and sat, glancing back and forth between Eric and Sookie.

"She doesn't like me," Sookie said as she looked at the woman. The water in the brook was flowing faster now. Belladonna hadn't been making that sound after all.

"No, Your Ma—," the woman began, but Eric cut her off.

"Be silent!"

The woman shut up and redirected her eyes to the floor in front of her.

Eric stood directly in front of the woman and pulled Sookie close so she was facing him. As he held her right hand, he reached down and gently grasped the woman's right hand and placed it in Sookie's left. It hadn't been too long since Sookie had fed. She wouldn't need much now.

"Find the strongest point and bite lightly."

Sookie lifted the woman's wrist and brushed her lips across it. The rhythm of her pulse was like a lullaby. Sookie closed her eyes and bit. The woman barely flinched.

After only one deep draw something was different. The temperature of the blood unexpectedly jumped. Sookie opened her eyes wide and looked up to see something she had never seen before. Eric was feeding from the woman's other wrist.

Sookie almost dropped her wrist, but Eric quickly raised their joined hands and caught it so she didn't release her bite. As they stared into each other's eyes, she sucked and the hot blood ran through her like a torrent.

Then Eric took a long draw from the other wrist and Sookie could feel that as well. As she stared into his eyes she could feel him coursing through her, filling her with his very being. She watched the corners of his mouth tilt slightly up and his eyes ablaze.

He stopped and again raised their joined hands and touched under her chin. She began suckling, though she could no longer hear the calling. She saw Eric smile again and he took a quick draw then released the wrist. The shockwave that produced caused her to release the woman as well. She swallowed hard and squeezed Eric's hand.

Eric nudged the woman's shoulder. "Get out."

"Did I do something wrong?" the woman asked as she stumbled to her feet. "Is that it?"

"Get out!" Sookie cried as she lunged into Eric's waiting arms.