A/N: I'm so evil for leaving you with that cliffhanger for so long. I apologize for taking so long, but RL seems to be keeping me away from this fic, and it doesn't help that my muses have been popping in to leave me little tidbits of future story ideas. I've started working a bit on those, but I want to get them mostly written before I post. Please put me on author alert if you're interested in what I'll be posting in the future.

In other news, I may be heading back to work soon and I'm not sure how this will affect my posting schedule. I'm hoping I'll still have free time to keep you all coming back for more. I really dislike when an author rushes an ending that I've invested my time with, so I promise not to do that or leave it incomplete. I'll stick to the end if you'll join me.

Okay, back to the moment you've all been waiting for. What is happening in the burning shack of love? I hope you enjoy this chapter and I'll meet you all at the bottom.

Special thanks to my beta mistress Southernlady23. Thank you for cracking the whip to encourage me to get this chapter out. I loves you!

Viking kisses go out to my great proofreader rcherry1977. I has love for you too. *giggles*

All remaining mistakes are all mine.

Song to listen to this chapter: Burn – Mad at Gravity

Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters.

Chapter 19:

Stan was amazed by the details Pam was able to relate to the composite sketch artist. After scanning the drawing into their facial recognition system, he sent off copies to the news stations around the area. With no hits on the local or national databases with the information they had gathered, he was hoping that someone would be able to identify the person of interest and call the tip line with the sketch.

For now, all they had to go on was the DNA they had collected and it was still going to be a while until it was finished being processed. Once the results came back, he hoped they would know what direction to go in next.

Walking into the office he shared with his partner, Stan offered a cup of coffee to Barry.

"Thanks." Barry made a grab for the steaming cup and took a swig.

"You're welcome; have you heard any news from the coroner on the Pierce case?" Stan asked as he leaned against the door jab with his mug of coffee. He and Horowitz had been burning the late night oil trying to come up with new leads on the case.

"Yes. Autopsy revealed that she died of ligature strangulation. From the ligature marks found on her neck, Cal thinks they were made from some type of rope, cord, or some other thin material. We were unable to find the object used to strangle Ms. Pierce at the scene, so the killer most likely took the object with him when he left," Barry recounted from the report and the logged findings from the homicide scene.

He took the ligature with him? Why would the murderer do that? Stan thought as he took another drag of coffee into him before he focused back on what his partner was saying.

"Unfortunately, the murderer was wise enough not to leave his hand prints on her skin," Barry leaned back in his chair.

"Was there any evidence of Ms. Pierce being sexually assaulted?" Stan furrowed his brow trying to puzzle this all together in his mind.

"No. At the moment there is no motive for this homicide. It seems to be a random act, but by the careful actions of the killer, he must have some sort of experience with this type of crime."

"That's my suspicion as well. In any event, we may have a lead with the sketch I just released to the press. Ms. Ravenscroft, possibly being the last known person to see Ms. Pierce with an unknown male, may be our only lead at the moment." Stan sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Monitor the tip line for any incoming calls regarding the news report. I'm off to speak with Burnham about the DNA. Hopefully he has something more to help with this mess."

"Sure thing, boss, I'll get right on it." Barry gave him a nod before leaving his desk.

Stan exited the office and made his way to crime lab located at the back of the precinct. When he pushed through the large swinging doors to enter Bobby's lair, his attention was pulled from his destination by a loud meow to his left.

Turning sharply, he saw a familiar large grey cat sitting up on Bobby's desk. He furrowed his brow in confusion and crossed the room quickly to hit the intercom button on the wall.

"Bobby!" he yelled through the intercom.

Stan watched through the viewing window of the clean room as Bobby jerked, startled by the loud disturbance. Bobby looked up at Stan with wide eyes. He dropped what he was working on and scrambled into the air lock to be disinfected. When the lock was disengaged, Bobby came rushing out in his white cover up suit, mask, and protection goggles.

"Yes, Stan? What can I do for you?" he asked while he pulled the mask free from his mouth.

"What the hell is this cat doing in here?" Stan pointed to Tootie who had paused midway on licking his paw to look up at the two men. "Shouldn't he be at the animal shelter?"

"Well, they were short on space and since Señor Tootie and I got on so well I signed up to foster him."

"Señor Tootie?" Stan couldn't help but chuckle at Bobby feeling as he felt his anger dissipate.

"Yes, don't you see his white mustache?" Bobby crossed his hands across his chest in defense. "He looks like a señor with it so that's what I'm calling him."

Stan looked over at the cat and laughed when he saw the little white patch of hair that did resemble a small mustache. "So you thought it'd be a good idea to bring him in to work with you? Are you not worried that he'll contaminate the evidence? In case you're not aware, we don't host a 'bring your pet to work' program."

"I'm very aware of that, Detective Davis. I've already discussed the situation with Chief Edgington. He agreed to Señor Tootie spending the day with me, as long as he stayed out of the clean room."

"Well, if the Chief is fine with it, then I guess there's nothing I say about that. Just be sure to keep him out of that room. I don't want anything jeopardizing the evidence, Burnham." Stan scrubbed his face in exhaustion and exasperation. With a sigh Stan moved on to the reason he stopped by. "Have you had any progress with the DNA on the Pierce case?"

"Yes, preliminary reports suggest it's a Caucasian male, but that's all I've got at the moment. I still need a few more days for the report to be compiled. You'll be the first person I contact if the results are available before then."

"Please do that; thanks, Bobby. I'll let you and Tootie get back to work."

"Señor Tootie!" Bobby called out as Stan walked out shaking his head.


Bill watched from a distance as the smoke and flames escaped the small structure he set a blaze. The thought of Sookie and the lifeguard being locked inside made him smile in satisfaction. This wasn't how he wanted Sookie's demise to go, but he was desperate to keep the lifeguard from touching once more what belonged to him. Taking out his phone, he quickly snapped a few photos as reminders.

He looked off to the side of the flaming building and saw spectators emptying the nearby clubs. A few had rushed to the beach to watch the fire build and were on their phones, most likely calling for help.

Soon it will be too late for anyone to rescue you or lover boy, Sookie. I always knew your death would be at my hands.

Bill joined the small crowd that gathered around the burning shack. He wanted a prime viewing spot without being too obvious. His smug expression was getting harder to hide as he watched the flames grow.

The blaze continued to climb higher on the walls until they reached the ceiling of the lifeguard shack. The smoke engulfed the small room that held Sookie and Eric captive, swallowing most of the oxygen. Sookie coughed and slumped to the floor as she watched Eric try to free them from the inferno that surrounded them. She was starting to feel weak, and the smoke was making it difficult for her to breathe.

Eric felt her slump against his leg and kneeled down to hold her.

"Sookie, are you okay? Hold on, baby, I'll get us out of here," Eric coughed out.

Feeling as if hope was lost, Sookie wrapped her arms around his shoulders and whispered hoarsely in his ear.

"If this is the end, I think you need to know-"

"Stop that! This is not the end. I'll make sure of that." Eric tore off his dress shirt and handed it to Sookie to cover her nose and mouth.

He knew it would be easier for her to breathe the lower she was to the floor, so he leaned her against the wall closest to the door. With renewed determination, Eric pushed his shoulder into the door with all his power. He felt it give lightly before he took one last shaky breath and slammed into it once more. The wood shattered from the impact and his body was thrown onto the platform just outside the entry. Coughing and taking deep pulls of clean, cool air, he shakily stood up and rushed back into the shack to retrieve Sookie. His heart clenched in his chest as he found her lying on her side, passed out. Scooping her up bridal style, he ran down the ramp and onto the sand a safe distance away from the fire.

"Sookie! Wake up! Please wake up!" he screamed as he laid her limp body onto the sand and quickly took her vitals.

Her breathing was shallow and her heartbeat was slowing. He leaned down and began performing CPR on her.

A few bystanders ran up to him when they saw the couple flee the burning building.

"Are you all right?" one woman asked as she knelt down beside Eric.

"Can we help with anything?" another asked to the opposite side.

"Call 911 now!" Eric yelled out, without stopping his resuscitation of Sookie.

"They're on their way. I've already called," a man offered as he knelt by Sookie's head. "We didn't know anyone was in there or we would've tried to help."

As the man reached out to touch Sookie's head and Eric growled out.

"Don't touch her!"

"Sorry." The man recoiled at Eric's growl.

The people that arrived to try to offer help sat back and watched as Eric continued his pumping air into the unconscious girl's mouth. After a few breaths, they breathed out a sigh of relief as they heard her start to cough and drag in a lungful of air.

"Thank God!" Eric looked down at her with relief in his eyes.

"We need to stop meeting like this." Sookie smiled weakly up at him and released a harsh cough.

"I'm beginning to think you enjoy scaring me half to death," Eric chuckled and cradled her upper body in his strong arms. "I don't know what I would have done if I'd have lost you in there, Sookie."

"Well you didn't, so hush," Sookie said with a hoarse voice as she leaned back.

"Shh, don't talk anymore. Help is on the way and they'll check out your throat to be sure there's no damage."

Sookie nodded weakly. She looked into his eyes that were brimming with unshed tears. Trying to calm him, she ran her fingers across his jaw and offered him a frown.

Eric took her hand from his face and placed a soft kiss on her palm.

"You're lucky you both survived," the man who tried to help before interrupted their intimate exchange and gave a nod toward the building completely covered in flames. "A minute longer and you may not have made it out."

Eric and Sookie looked off to the left just as the roof of the lifeguard stand collapsed. Sookie gasped at the sight before them.

Eric pulled Sookie tight against his chest, relieved that nothing serious happened before he was able to get them out. It was a close call, and one he would not allow to happen again. If Eric ever found out whoever wanted to hurt her, that person wouldn't be breathing for long. He didn't care about the consequences. This psychotic person almost killed someone he loved and he needed to pay for his actions. He made a silent vow to Sookie. She would not be hurt, or close to harm again if he could help it.

Sookie noticed Eric's expression darken and his jaw tighten while he stared at the former lifeguard stand still ablaze.


He turned and tried to quell his dark thoughts from Sookie.

Their attention was diverted by the sound of sirens approaching them. Soon they were joined by a group of fire fighters leaping from their truck, and diving into action. They watched as the fire fighters fought to gain control of the fire. In no time at all they had it extinguished.

The small group surrounding Eric and Sookie waved the paramedics over to the couple and they immediately started assessing them for injuries. One paramedic gave them oxygen and blankets, while the other tended to the large burn on Eric's forearm. After they evaluated them, the paramedics were surprised Sookie and Eric only had minor injuries after being trapped inside the small structure fire.

They wanted to take Sookie in for precautionary overnight observation, but she refused. Eric not wanting to leave Sookie's side, refused as well. The paramedics asked them to please seek professional help if they had any smoke inhalation symptoms, had them both sign refusal of medical treatment forms, and released them to talk to the police.

Eric relayed the story of seeing a man at the window as they were inside, taking refuge from the rain. Officer Beck asked if he could identify the suspect, but Eric said he had only caught a glimpse of him before the window was shattered and the flaming bottle thrown inside. Unfortunately, it all happened too quickly for Eric to give an accurate description of the man in question. He informed the police officer about the stalker that had been harassing Sookie and asked the officer to inform Detective Davis about the details.

Officer Beck wasn't convinced a possible stalker would resort to such an act of violence for such a plain looking girl, but would inform Stan about the night's events nonetheless. He asked Sookie if she witnessed anything, but she was unable to provide any further details. She was trembling in Eric's arms as she thought of the stalker becoming more dangerous as the days passed.

What will he do next? Her body shuddered at the possibilities of any further harm coming to her or someone she loved. We were able to escape this time but what about the next? Who would this sick person hurt to get to me?

Officer Beck allowed them to leave after getting their statements and asked them to call the station or stop by if they remembered anything else that could be helpful. Eric agreed and pulled a still shivering Sookie back to his car.

Bill watched in silent fury from the crowd that circled the smoking, charred remains of the lifeguard stand. His hands were clenched so tightly, his nails were starting to break the skin in his palms. He had to hide the snarl from outwardly showing as he watched Sookie once again slip away.

This only prolongs the inevitable, Sookie. One day soon your luck will run out for you and lover boy.

He continued to watch as the paramedics tended them, and they talked to the police. When he saw Eric cover Sookie with an arm and led her to the parking area, he turned and pushed angrily through the spectators to leave. Now that his plans were hindered again, he needed to make a new plan of attack.

On the drive home, Eric couldn't help thinking about tonight. It had been such a whirlwind. First there was the trouble with the women who were determined to keep him from being with Sookie, and then the other person standing in their way, Sookie's stalker. When was this going to end?

It seemed like this obsessed man was more dangerous than Eric first suspected. The way this sick fuck was moving from observing Sookie from a distance, to breaking into her room, and finally progressing to actually attempting to cause her harm was too much. His actions were becoming desperate and that could be dangerous for Sookie and the girls. Eric had a glimpse at the lengths this man was determined to go through to get to Sookie and he didn't like it one bit. He needed to come up with a way to protect Sookie when she returned to school.

Eric's thoughts suddenly switched to Sookie's half confession. What did she want to tell him right before he was able to get them free? If it was what he suspected, then he was thinking the same thing. He hadn't said the words, but he'd been feeling his affections for Sookie grow with each day he spent with her. He wondered if she would have meant her words if he had allowed her say what she was on the verge of saying? Or was she simply saying it because she thought they were going to die?

He wanted to ask her about it, but felt that it wasn't the right time. He turned his eyes from the road in front of them to look at her in sitting in the passenger seat. Luckily, he still had the blanket he used for their picnic in his trunk and was able to wrap her in it to fend off the chill in the night air. She looked so small with the large blanket cocooning her. Her head was pressed against the window as she stared blankly out the windshield. He placed his hand on her knee and ran his thumb against her in comfort. When she tilted her head to look at him, she offered him a weak smile in reassurance.

Eric was amazed that she had held up so bravely in the face of what had happened. He knew she had to be in shock and soon she'd crumble from the stress if something didn't change. Pulling into the driveway of his condo, he parked and climbed out quickly to help Sookie out.

He clasped her delicate hand in his and led her to the front entrance. Unlocking the door, he wrapped an arm around Sookie's padded waist and helped her inside.

"I'm fine, Eric. Really. You don't have to treat me like I'm going to break," she whispered in a gravelly voice.

"I'm sorry; I'm just worried about you. Can't I just be worried about you?" he stopped and ran the back of his fingers across her cheek.

"Yes, I'm sorry…this is all a bit too much. I didn't mean to snap."

"Don't worry about it. Feel free to snap or do anything else you need to. I can take it," He smirked at her, trying to lighten the mood a bit. "Do you want something to drink? Are you hungry? I can make you something to eat?"

"No thank you, I just want to go to take a shower and climb into bed. Is that all right?" she looked up into his eyes with uncertainty.

"Of course it is. Anything you want is fine."

"Thanks, Eric…for getting us out of there and saving my life…again." Sookie threw her arms around his waist and pressed her head against his chest.

Eric felt her body shudder from her dam of tears finally releasing. He scooped her up and carried her over to the sofa to set her down on his lap. He stroked her hair, murmuring gently in her ear as she cried.

"Shush, Sookie, its fine. I've got you. Let it out," he whispered as he held her against his chest.

"We could have died. Why does this have to be happening, Eric?" Sookie sobbed out.

"I don't know, sweetheart, but it's over now. Let's not dwell on what could have happened. We're here now." He placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

Sookie nodded in agreement and slid her arms around his neck to nuzzle deeper in his embrace. She inhaled his scent deeply, but found it hard to find his unique scent under the smoke that permeated his clothes and skin. She released a shaky sigh as she tried to calm her nerves.

When Eric finally felt her body relax, he suggested she grab that shower and lay down for the night. Without protest, he carried her into his room and set her down on her feet to gather her sleep clothing. He watched as she moved from his dresser to the bathroom almost robotically. He knew it would be hard for her to move past this, but he'd be there to help her.

He heard the shower start up and moved back to the living room to think about the close call. He didn't have much time to reflect on it before the front door flung open to reveal three giggling women stumbling through it.

Pam instantly sobered up when she saw Eric sitting on the sofa, head in his hands. She looked over his hunched figure and saw he was covered in what looked like soot with his arm bandaged.

"What the fuck happened to you?" Pam yelled out and rushed to Eric's side.

"It's nothing, just a small burn." Eric tried to downplay to Pam, but winced when she pulled his arm to check the bandage.

"What do you mean it's nothing? You look like shit and don't try to hide that grimace of pain I just saw. Why aren't you at the hospital?"

"I'll get it looked at tomorrow by my doctor. I just didn't want to subject Sookie to spending hours at the Emergency Room," Eric said dismissively.

"What happened? You better start talking. Where's Sookie?" Pam looked around the living room and into the kitchen.

"Oh God! Is Sookie all right?" Hadley finally spoke up with concern evident in her voice.

She ran into Eric's room as fast as her tall heels and inebriated body would allow her. They all jumped up and followed her as they heard Sookie scream out.

"Argh…Hadley! What the hell!"

They walked in to see a naked soaking Sookie wrapped up in Hadley's arms.

"Sookie, you're okay. I was so worried," Hadley blubbered out.

"Hadley, I'm fine. Can you let me get dry and I'll join you in a minute?" Sookie looked to the right to give Eric a pleading look for help.

"Come on, Hadley. Let her get dressed and we'll let you all know what happened. She's been through enough already." Eric tried to disentangle Hadley from Sookie.

"You hurry up or I'm coming back for you, ya hear?" Hadley slurred out.

Eric steered Hadley out of the bathroom and closed the door to give Sookie some privacy. Pam stepped out of the way as they neared her. When they walked back into the living room the other woman, a beautiful brunette with curves in all the right places and ample cleavage pouring out of her skin tight top, Pam and Hadley had brought home was standing at the door. She looked unsure of what to do.

"I'm sorry, Amber; it looks like we'll have to take a rain check. I'll give you a call or stop by the club to see you soon." Pam approached her with a disappointed look.

"Oh. No problem, Pam, be sure to give me a call next time you and your friend want to party." She gave Pam a wink and Hadley a small wave before she left.

Pam closed the door behind Amber and turned back to Eric.

"I think you better start explaining." Pam crossed her arms at her chest and narrowed her eyes at Eric.

"I will as soon as Sookie joins us."

"This needs to be resolved soon. While we're waiting on her I'm turning on the news report. They should've released the sketch by now. Maybe Hadley or Sookie can identify this bastard that I have a sneaky suspicion had something to do with what you're about to tell us."

Eric nodded to Pam as she grabbed the remote to switch on the television. He grabbed his phone to call Tray. He knew Amelia would want to know what happened to her friend and it might be better to explain it all at once.

A moment later Sookie made her way out of the bedroom. She saw Eric on his cell; Hadley sprawled out on the sofa, and Pam messing with the television. She figured she could use a drink before she explained the situation. She walked into the kitchen and pulled out a glass, poured some ice into it, and grabbed the bottle sitting close by. She'd never drunk Grey Goose straight up, but she needed it to help calm her nerves. Putting away the bottle, she turned to walk back to the living room. She took a small sip from her cup before she looked up right as Pam had paused the screen.

"Here! This is the sketch. Does he look familiar?" Pam has swung on his heels to look to Sookie and the rest of the room.

As Sookie shifted her eyes from Pam over to the face on the screen, shock seared through her as she recognized the person in the drawing. Losing the grip on the glass in her hand, it slipped free and shattered at her bare feet.

At the sound of the glass breaking, Eric turned away from the wall and ran up to Sookie. Her put his arms on her shoulders and tore her gaze from the TV screen.

"Sookie? What's wrong?"

"That man...that man on the TV...I…I know him…"

A/N: Yes, I'm leaving it there. *evil laugh* I hope I'll have the time to update this quicker than before. Just to let you all know, this still has a bit more to go. The story doesn't end here in South Padre for these friends. It'll extend to Sookie's return to home so stick around to see what happens next. Thanks for staying around to read this story. I can't tell you how much your reviews encourage me to continue writing. So please click the button below and share your thoughts with me.

*blows kisses to you all* I'll see you all next time, lovelies.