I had intended to finish this story at the end of Chapter 7, but quite a few people have been kind enough to say that they would like to read another chapter, so I've dug out an old idea of mine and polished it up a bit. I hope it fits, and that you don't think it spoils the tone of the rest of the story. It contains some of Eric's backstory and tries to explain why Ocella had such a powerful effect on him in Dead in the Family. I hope you like it – please review. Many thanks

Chapter 8

The scent of blood drew me from my sleep. My fangs emerged, I opened my eyes, and met the smiling blue gaze of the most beautiful man in the world. Eric was sitting naked on the side of our huge bed, holding a crystal glass, full of something red, warm and smelling delicious. "Breakfast is served, madam," he said, and handed me the glass. Ahh, just what the doctor ordered. I drank it down and felt it warming me right to my toes. The room service here was perfect, and the waiter was delicious. Did I say delicious? I meant delightful. I think. He smiled and topped up my glass from a large thermos jug and I emptied it again, before registering something.

"Eric, is this True Blood?"

"No, my sweet, this is the real thing. Baby vampires can't survive on synthetics, whatever our PR people tell the media."

"Baby vampires?" I laughed at the expression. "Is that what I am?"

"Of course. You are less than 24 hours old."

"It just sounds so silly."

He raised an eyebrow, and gave me yet another refill. "You think so? But you call me 'baby' all the time, and that's even sillier, when you consider my age."

"That's different. That's a…what did you call it last night? A 'term of endearment'."

"Whereas when I use it, it is the literal truth in vampire terms. You are a baby, and as a baby you will need lots of care and attention, and I am going to enjoy every minute of providing that for you." He smiled and leaned in to kiss my forehead.

"Mmmm. That's just giving me an incentive to never grow up."

"You will have to eventually, my sweet, but meanwhile you will need human blood in quantity for at least your first year. That's not a problem, it's readily obtainable." He held up the thermos jug again. "This was donated by some of the volunteers at Fangtasia last night. They were practically coming to blows for the honour of satisfying the thirst of the newest and loveliest vampire in Louisiana." His voice was full of pride, and I suspected it was pride of ownership, but I wasn't going to rain on his parade. Not today. If he was proud of me I was going to sit back and enjoy it.

A question occurred to me. "Eric, how come I've only just woken up and you're already up and about and have got me this?"

"That is a function of my age, sweetheart. Although I cannot go into the light, I can rise a little before dusk, and don't always fall asleep at dawn. Do you remember in Rhodes you were able to rouse me and not Pam? That is why I was able to wake you with breakfast in bed." He continued. "Have a little more, and see if you can identify it."

I sat up, nearly spilling the glass. "Identify it? Holy crap, Eric, this isn't someone I know, is it?" I was horrified at the thought.

"Firstly, don't use language like that, and secondly, of course it is not. I was referring to the blood-type, not the donor."

"Oh. Sorry." I lay back again, kind of deflated. I guess maybe I had over-reacted a little.

"Now, take a sip, let it rest on your tongue for a few seconds and then roll it round your mouth."

I looked at him. "Eric, this isn't a wine-tasting; I am not gonna gargle and spit."

"I should hope not, beloved. It would not look good on our new carpet. No, I just want you to get used to different varieties. Can you remember what you enjoyed most last night?"

I thought back. They'd all been pretty yummy, I must admit, but if anything I remembered a slight inclination towards the blonds and I told him so. He smiled in satisfaction.

"That is what I picked up from you through our bond, and that is what we have here; pure blond." He lifted the jug and drank straight from it, smacking his lips in satisfaction. "I am glad our tastes coincide in this. I too prefer blondes."

I giggled. "Does that make you a gentleman?"

His brow creased in puzzlement. He didn't get the reference.

"There's a famous book and a film starring Marilyn Monroe, called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

"Ah, yes. I am familiar with Marilyn Monroe. She was splendidly pneumatic."

"Splendidly what?"

"Pneumatic. It means well-rounded; bouncy."

"Bouncy? ! ?"

"Yes." His tone was uncertain, slightly defensive. "I have read this word in a book by Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. It is a description of the heroine, who has large breasts and full, womanly, hips like Marilyn Monroe. Is pneumatic not a generally accepted term?"

"Not round here, it isn't. It means, well… inflated with air, like a car tire."

"Ah. As I said; well-rounded and bouncy." Now his tone was one of satisfaction at having been proved right.

"I don't know many women who would feel complimented if you said they were like a car tire, Eric."

"I see." He was thoughtful. "What expression would most women consider acceptable?"

"Well, I think 'curvy', or 'well-rounded' or even just plain 'feminine' would do it, but I'm kinda hoping you're not gonna be going round complimenting a whole lot of women any time soon. You're a married man, now, buddy." An eyebrow drifted upwards.

"Buddy? I believe we have spoken about your use of this word before, my lover. I should prefer it if you did not address me as 'buddy'. It is not an expression that commends itself to me." His tone was mild, but I could tell he meant it. Alright, I'd give him this one.

"Okay, honey. I guess my vocabulary's big enough to handle losing one word."

"Thank you, my own. And in case you were wondering, I don't know whether I am a gentleman or not, but the blonde that I prefer is in my bed at this very moment. Now, finish your breakfast before it goes cold." He emptied the rest of the thermos into my glass and went through to the bathroom to rinse it out. Since he was out of the room, I surreptitiously tried his tasting technique, swirling the blood round my mouth and trying to decide if it tasted like the blonds I remembered from last night. I was busy doing this when I heard a faint choking sound and I looked up to see him standing in the doorway watching me, his eyes alight with laughter. I swallowed quickly and glared at him indignantly.

"My little love, you have no idea how irresistibly cute you look when you do that," he said, grinning.

"Well, it was your idea." I tried to pout, but it's hard to pout when your lips just want to curve up into a smile.

Dammit, I couldn't stay mad at him when he looked at me like that!

"Anyway, I can't be that irresistible, 'cause I'm in bed and you're still all the way over there."

As I smiled at him, the expression on his face changed to one that I recognised and loved, he growled deep in his chest and before I could say anything he was on the bed tossing the covers back and pushing my nightgown up above my breasts. He settled himself between my thighs and then his mouth was in a very special place, doing very special things. God, he was amazing! His tongue was like an eel, wriggling and probing, and my head went back, my hands clutched at the silk sheet and I started doing some wriggling myself. I was so glad the neighbours were some distance away. The noises I was making would probably have shattered their conservatory windows if we'd been much closer. Eric withdrew his mouth briefly to say, "Look at me, my wife," and with an effort I raised my head and looked down the length of my body. His eyes were so blue they reminded me of the Caribbean. They even had little sparkles in them, like sunlight on the waves. He smiled at me, his fangs extended, and then went back to work, nibbling and sucking, licking and kissing, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on mine. The tension built and built until he suddenly turned his head and sank his fangs into my inner thigh, drinking briefly from my femoral artery, and I felt a sunburst of supernova proportions and I was out of my head, seeing gold and white streaks, while the waves of ecstasy spread out from my centre and then his mouth was on mine, and his length was inside me, the softness of my flesh giving way before the firmness of his and I held him to me and felt his pleasure and he felt mine and we rode the wave together to the topmost sunlit crest before it came crashing down on us and we were both left gasping as the swell withdrew and we were back in our bodies, shaking and clutching at each other as the aftershocks rocked us. Oh man. Vamp sex was just the best! I laughed with sheer delight at the worlds of pleasure that were yet to be explored with Eric as my guide. Blood and sex. Sex and blood. What a great start to the day.

Eric flopped over onto his back and lay next to me, staring up at the silk canopy above us, trembling slightly, a seraphic smile on his face. He never looked more beautiful than in the aftermath of sex. I wriggled over and laid my head in the hollow of his shoulder, my hand on his broad chest. His arm came round me and we lay together, silent, contented just to be with each other.

Eventually he spoke, his deep voice relaxed and comfortable.

"Sookie, if I had known that our bond would be so very special, I would have brought you over years ago."

I snorted. "In your dreams, fella." A thought occurred. "Can I call you fella?" He grimaced.

"I'm not wild about it, but if you must. Speaking of which, my lover, I suppose we do need to decide how you are going to address me in public."

"Why?"

"Do you recall our discussion regarding respect and how other vampires regard our relationship? We must be very careful. I cannot afford to give Victor any ammunition and he will take any opportunity he can to discredit or undermine me."

"So, what are you saying?"

"I think you need to confine all use of affectionate terms to our own home, my love. When we are elsewhere, it would be best if you address me simply as Eric."

"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer 'master'?" He noted the sarcasm, but chose to ignore it.

"That will not be necessary. Pam addresses me as master, but she is only my child, not my wife. You may call me Eric."

"Well, thanks a lot…" Ah oh. Get a grip, Sookie. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, remember? Rewind! I adjusted my tone of voice and tried again.

"Thank you for saying I don't have to call you master. What about when we're not at home but we're alone, like in your office?"

"Remember our enhanced hearing, my sweet. The office is not soundproof and any vampire in the club will be able to hear what we say. No, when we are at home, you may call me what you please – except for 'buddy', of course – but anywhere else it must be Eric. Will you remember this?"

"What will you do if I don't?"

"It would be better if you did." His tone was quite final.

"Yes, but what if?" I was pushing, I knew, but I needed to know where I stood.

"If you addressed me in an inappropriate fashion in the presence of other vampires, I would be expected to deal with it. Please do not put me to the test, Sookie. It would give me no pleasure to discipline you, but I would have to do so. Our relationship is very different now, and there are many eyes watching us. I do not wish to command you; I would much rather you agreed willingly, because you see the sense of what I am saying, but if I have to, then I will command you as your maker."

"Alright, Eric. For your sake, I'll try my hardest. If I do slip up, it will be an accident, not deliberate defiance, I promise. Will that do?"

He hugged me, smiling. "Thank you, my sweet. I know you will try. I think I am going to enjoy being your maker, seeing you grow into your new life. We will have a very special relationship, almost unique, and I will be the envy of every other maker in Louisiana."

Then I remembered something that had been puzzling me for a while. "Eric…"

"Yes?"

"You remember when Ocella and Alexei were with us? I know I was confused for a while, what with all the different blood-bonds and all, so I found it kind of difficult to pick up on what was you and what was him and what was Alexei, but I know I was getting some real bad vibes from you. I could tell you had major problems with him, but just why did Ocella freak you out so?"

His whole body went rigid. "What?" All trace of relaxation was instantly gone from his voice.

"Well, apart from the king and Victor and Sandy, you're the most powerful vampire I know; you're a sheriff, you're real old and strong. It just seems weird that he had that effect on you. I thought vamps were very attached to their makers. I know I am to mine." I smiled playfully and twirled my fingers in the blond curls on his chest, but for the first time I could ever remember he pushed my hand away, and rolled over abruptly so that he was lying with his back to me. "You would not understand." His voice was now cold and distant.

A hollow sinking feeling told me I'd trespassed. "Maybe not, but I'd like to try." I put my hand on his shoulder. "You're real important to me, honey, and what affects you affects me; even more, now you're my maker. I'm so sorry if I've said something I shouldn't have. Please don't say anything if you'd rather not, I don't want to upset you."

He remained silent for a few moments longer, and then turned back to me. His face was troubled. "Do you really want to know?"

"Not if it's something too personal. You have a right to your privacy."

"But I suppose you have a right to ask the question, as my wife. I have never told anyone else this, but for you, I will try." He sat up in bed, the sheet at his waist, and was silent a moment, collecting his thoughts. Then he took my hand in his and began.

"You remember I told you that Ocella had attacked me on the road one night, when I was a young man? Well, when I rose, I was hungry. You understand what I mean?" He looked at me, and I nodded I certainly did understand that now. Then he continued. "I had to feed. The nearest source of food was my own homestead, so I led Ocella straight there and we went to the barn, where I knew I would find Gottfried, one of my thralls, bedding down the horses for the night."

I interrupted him. "What's a thrall?"

"A slave." He was completely matter-of-fact about it.

"You owned slaves ? ! ?"

He glanced at me, irritated. "Of course. Everyone did. They were usually foreigners, taken in war. Gottfried was Frankish, I think – you would say French. My father had captured him in a raid many years earlier – I had known him since I was a small child. He taught me to ride my first pony." Eric paused for a moment, and then continued. "Everyone else had retired to the house, at some distance, so I knew he would be alone. He was really happy to see me, as I had been missing for two days, and he came to me smiling when I called him. I broke his neck. Then I fed on him." He looked at me as though expecting some comment, but I kept my thoughts to myself. Who was I to judge? How do I know what I would have been prepared to do in the same circumstances?

"While I fed, Ocella was exploring the barn. He came up behind me as I drank and told me to step back as he wished to feed also. I was still hungry and I defied him, possibly foolishly, and turned back to Gottfried's body." There was a pause as he clearly struggled with his memories. "Without warning he struck me down as I drank and I fell forward, stunned. You know that vampires grow stronger as they grow older? Well, Ocella was eleven hundred years old, and he was strong enough to pin me down with one hand between my shoulder blades, while he tore off my clothing with his other hand. Although dizzy from the blow I struggled but I could not rise and he raped me, there, across the body of my dead slave." He stopped speaking and I stared at him in horror. He looked straight ahead, his eyes unfocussed as though seeing across the long years back to that moment. His voice when he continued was quite level and controlled, but I could see that this was costing him something.

"When he had finished, he removed the slave-collar from the corpse's neck and fastened it round my throat, twisting the metal shut with his bare hands. Then he dragged me by my hair to stand with my back to the wall of the barn, and he tied my wrists to a hook in the wall above my head. He went back to Gottfried's body to feed and, not realising the strength I now had, I did not attempt to break free. When he had finished feeding, he went to his bundle and put on a pair of leather gloves and unhooked my favourite bridle from the wall, where it was hanging. I was very proud of that bridle, as I had won it in a wrestling contest the year before at the local fair. It was very ornate, and the reins were decorated along their length with rosettes of silver."

I gasped, as I had a horrible feeling I knew what was coming. Eric continued, his voice no longer quite so level.

"He smiled, unhooked the reins from the headstall, and struck me with them across my face. It burned like the fires of Hell, and I was blind with agony. Vikings are a warrior people, and I had been trained to bear my wounds silently, but I could not prevent a cry escaping me. He explained the nature of silver, and exactly what it could do, and then proceeded to drive home the lesson by giving me a further twenty lashes with the silver-chased reins, on my face, legs and naked body, not sparing any part of me."

He didn't have to draw me a picture – I knew exactly what he meant.

"As I was now vampire, the wounds from that beating did not last, but the memory of the pain and the fear will never leave me." Eric was now gripping my hand so tightly that my fingers were as white as his, but I couldn't bring myself to speak. He was lost in his memories.

"When he had finished he spun me round so my face was to the wall, and he raped me again. Then he untied me and ordered me to my knees. I was in too much pain and shock to resist, nothing like this had ever happened to me before. He fastened a rope to my collar, which was already uncomfortably tight as Gottfried had been a smaller man than I. Ocella warned me that if I interfered with the collar in any way he would replace it with a silver one, which he had ready in his belongings. Then he forced my head down and made me kiss his feet.

In my culture this was a sign of submission, and with that act, I, Erik Hrothgar Hjarvaldssen, warrior prince of Bjornstadt, became his naked, beaten, collared thrall. He tugged hard on the rope, and laughed when I asked him to loosen the collar a little. He said 'It is as it should be. You will always be aware of it, and so will always be aware that I am your master.' He was right. I wore his collar for more than a hundred years and I never forgot for a second that I was his thrall.

It was a time of great torment for me. I was drawn to him as my maker and yet repelled by him at the same time. He enjoyed sex with men rather than women, and this was a great disgrace among my people. Not for the abuser; he was seen as manly, imposing his control and dominance on the victim; It was the victim who was shamed and despised. I endured the humiliation for as long as I could, but one night, about three months after he had turned me, I was so desperate to get away that I waited until he was absorbed in gambling at a roadside inn and then I ran from him into the darkness. He knew I had fled, but he did not try to stop me. He wished to demonstrate his power, so he waited until I had gone about two miles and then he called to me. I didn't hear him, I felt him in my blood. I tried to resist; but his blood in my veins was too strong and in the end my own body betrayed me; I crawled back to him, on all fours, weeping tears of blood, but unable to stop until I was kneeling at his feet, waiting for my punishment."

Eric stopped speaking, and I felt a terrible mix of emotions pouring through our bond as he remembered; Rage, humiliation, helplessness, self-loathing. His fists clenched and even though I was vampire, I yipped in pain as my hand was crushed. He glanced at me and released his grip, but I could feel the tension in his body. Clearly there was some crisis coming. Eventually I whispered, "What did he do to you?"

"He made me strip myself naked and then perform fellatio on him, publicly." This wasn't a term I had seen on my Word of the Day calendar, and he must have sensed my puzzlement, because he elaborated. "Oral sex, Sookie. He made me pleasure him with my mouth. That wasn't really the problem; after three months of his company I had become used to the act itself, but being forced to serve him in that way in front of a crowd of laughing, stinking peasants was almost more than I could bear." He was shaking with disgust and humiliation.

"But he hadn't finished with me yet. There was a big table in the middle of the room, and when I had finished pleasing him, he ordered me to bend over the table face down. Then he invited his filthy, drunken companions to use me for their pleasure in any way they wished for the remainder of the night." I tried to picture the scene; My Eric, stretched face down and helpless across a rough wooden table, in the candlelight, his golden hair hanging round his face, long legs spread, his hands gripping the wood as he waited for the next hideous, stinking lout to abuse him while his master laughed and diced nearby; the foul breath as his abusers whispered obscenities in his ears; the filthy hands clutching at his white flesh. I shuddered with nausea as he continued. "Something broke inside me that night. I never tried to run away again. No matter what he commanded, I simply said "yes, Master" and obeyed. For a very long time he exploited my obedience in any way he could, but eventually he grew bored with my lack of spirit, and he freed me, and allowed me to leave his side.

I have been free for over seven hundred years and in that time I have acquired great power. I am the oldest and strongest vampire in the kingdom; I am respected by the entire New World vampire community. You have seen me at Fangtasia – you know that my subordinates fear and obey me, the tourists admire me, the fang-bangers practically worship me; yet when Ocella appeared at your bedroom window that night, I remembered his collar about my throat and I was a slave again. If he had commanded it I would have knelt before him, and licked his boots. At his orders I would have stripped myself naked and allowed him to sodomise me again. I would even, my darling, have killed you if he had required it of me. I would have met the sun the following morning, but I would have had no choice but to obey him. Do you understand now why he "freaked me out" as you put it? Have I satisfied your curiosity sufficiently?"

His voice was bitter, but as he turned to look at me the stony expression on his face melted away at the sight of my tears and he released my hand to put his arms around me and hold me as I sobbed on his shoulder.

"Oh, Eric, I had no idea…" I could barely speak for the tears. What memories had I unlocked? How much harm had I done him, forcing him to remember?

"Sshhh," he soothed me and petted me. "It was a long time ago, and he wasn't all bad. He taught me everything I needed to know about being a vampire, and helped me to survive. Without him I would probably have been staked within a month. But human psychiatrists might well see a reason for my present need for control in those early experiences. There is nothing like having no control at all to make you value it."

"But he was so brutal to you." I mopped my eyes, with a kleenex from the container on the nightstand, leaving red stains on it. I was startled for a second, and then remembered.

"Life was harsh for everyone in those days," said Eric. "Ocella was a man of his time, no better or worse than most others. Mind you, I must admit, when I was being exhibited naked for peasants to stare at, I frequently regretted not being kinder to my own thralls."

"What? He exhibited you like an animal?" I was horrified.

"In southern Europe the men were small and dark and had never even heard of Vikings, let alone seen someone of my stature and colouring. I was tall and broad even for my race." Eric's voice was now more reflective as he remembered his earlier life. He probably hadn't thought about these things for decades, maybe centuries. "Ocella had a number of very ingenious ways of making money from me. In the smaller settlements I was just exhibited as a freak, the "Wild man of the North", but in larger communities I was usually hired out to the local brothel. I was chained to a couch and my body was made available to anyone who had the price. It wasn't too bad, as I was sometimes permitted to feed on one of the girls at the end of the night. I learned a lot." He smirked, briefly, and then continued. His bitterness seemed to have passed. All I was getting from the bond was a vaguely reminiscent mood.

"When we came to sophisticated cities like Constantinople, he would usually make quite a lot of money hiring me out to orgies and the more decadent feasts as a kind of novelty, to add spice to their jaded appetites." He smiled ruefully. "I was the star attraction at some of them. I remember one party in Venice at the palace of the Doge. It was the most beautiful building I'd ever been taken to, with marble pillars and fresco-ed walls and lit by hundreds of giant chandeliers hanging from golden hooks in the painted ceilings. The palace guards suspended me naked, in silver chains, from one of these hooks, and the guests were invited to test for themselves the vampires' legendary healing ability, by torturing me in whatever way their imaginations could devise and then watching me heal until someone else thought of something even more ingenious." He paused. "That was a very long night."

I could barely speak for disgust. Eventually I managed to say, "was he a total sadist?"

Eric looked at me in some surprise. "No, not at all. He didn't let any of them damage me permanently – no staking or mutilation. And he stopped two of them who wanted to tear out my fangs with red-hot pincers. For some reason, fangs always take longer to grow back than anything else. You must remember that I was his. He owned me absolutely, the way you would own a horse or an item of clothing. He genuinely had the right to do whatever he chose to me, and I had accepted that. He wasn't just my master; he was my maker."

Ah oh. I really didn't like the sound of that. "Does that mean you own me in the same way?"

He hugged me. "Times have changed, Sookie. Technically, yes, but there is nothing on earth that would make me treat you in that way, and in fact it would be disapproved of by the majority of vampires today. We have evolved, or most of us have, and we recognise that anything beyond necessary discipline is undesirable. If a maker is too brutal, you end up with someone like Micky." He was speaking of a really mean vampire who belonged to a neighbouring sheriff and who had given my friend Tara some problems a while back. "What Ocella did was not unusual for that time, but it wasn't all bad, sweetheart; I was a warrior, remember, and sometimes he took wagers on my fighting prowess. Or on my other skills." He smiled, reminiscently. "I remember one orgy in Constantinople when he bet the host that I could give every guest in the place an orgasm, one after the other, men and women alike. There were difficulties, of course; The men were scared about being so close to a vampire and the women were scared for, er, other reasons." Here he glanced at me to be sure I understood his meaning. I did. God had been more than generous with Eric in that department. He smirked slightly, and continued. "So, it was agreed that I would be chained on my knees with my hands behind my back, I could only use my mouth, and I had only five minutes to satisfy each guest."

"why only five minutes?"

"Well, there were only eleven hours of darkness that night, as I recall."

I took in the implications of what he was saying, and then tried to do the math, but had to give up and ask. "How… how many guests were there?"

"One hundred and twenty-three."

I didn't know quite how to phrase the next question. "And did you…did he…?"

"Did I win his wager for him? Oh yes. It made him quite wealthy, really, because word got around and demand for my services increased dramatically. In fact, he told me that he had received some very flattering offers to purchase me, including one from a Pasha, who wanted me for his harem."

"I thought harems were for women."

"Not this particular Pasha. His tastes were quite eclectic."

"But Ocella didn't sell you."

"Obviously not. The maker-child bond is too strong. Also, he made a great deal more money from renting me out."

"So you never got to meet the Pasha."

"Oh yes, I met him. Just, not face to face. If you know what I mean." His composure was astonishing, but I knew he was making light of the situation to cover up what this confession had cost him. I wanted to do something to make it up to him and I had just the thing.

"So, have you ever owned a slave since you were freed?"

"No. I've been to slave auctions of course, and occasionally I've been tempted but I could never quite bring myself to put the money down. Besides, as a vampire I can glamour people into doing what I require. Usually."

"Have you never seen anyone you really wanted to own, body and soul, since then?"

"Only you, my lover, and now I do own you." He smiled, and so did I. He had given me the cue I needed. I slid from the bed. "I'll be right back," I said and went into one of the other bedrooms. There were some items I had been keeping in there, waiting for the right moment to come along. I had purchased them from an e-company on Pam's advice as part of my trousseau. She said it would pique Eric's interest. Eventually, I hoped I wouldn't have to keep asking my husband's ex-lover for advice, but she'd sure been on the button over the whole p-spot thing. I swiftly pinned up my hair, and then opened the carton. There was a very, very tiny tunic in black silk which I squeezed into. It was extremely tight, and I thought he might have some difficulty removing it. There was also a gleaming (non-silver) collar and a light set of chains which I quickly donned, consisting of wrist cuffs with a chain running between them, and two more to the collar, forming a graceful triangle. I renewed my make-up, and applied his favourite scent liberally. Then I tiptoed back to the other room, trying not to jingle. I felt a little like Marley's ghost. Before I entered, I called out, "shut your eyes".

"What are you planning now, woman?" He sounded slightly alarmed. After my little surprise of the night before, he was exhibiting a certain amount of caution.

"You'll find out. Are they shut?"

"Oh, all right." He grumbled, but the bond told me he was definitely interested.

I slipped into the room as quietly as I could, thanking my lucky stars that as a vampire I was now Stealth Sookie, and I knelt at the foot of the high bed, where I knew he couldn't see me. Then I placed my hands on my thighs, and said, "you can open your eyes now."

"Where are you?" he sounded puzzled, because of course I was too low down for him to see me.

"Here, master." The sheets rustled as he moved to look over the end of the bed, and I lowered my head in what I hoped was an appealing attitude of submission. I heard him utter a short exclamation in Swedish (probably) and I ventured to look up. His blue eyes were blazing down at me and his mouth was open in astonishment. I smiled shyly.

"Your slave awaits your pleasure, master," I said. His expression changed and with an almost audible click his fangs extended to their fullest length and then he was standing naked in front of me. I bent forward and gently kissed and licked his feet. He hissed softly and I looked up.

"How may your slave serve you, master?" I enquired softly.

He bent and lifted me by the forearms, and stood me on my feet before placing a finger under my chin to raise my head so that he could examine my collar. He leaned down and ran his tongue across it. Then he hooked his index finger into the front of it and towed me round to the side of the bed. There he loosed my hair from its clips before picking me up and placing me gently on my back on the crumpled sheets. He briefly examined the fastenings on my chains before re-configuring them quickly and neatly until I found my hands chained to the posts at the head of the bed. He positioned me to his satisfaction, moved to the foot of the bed and stood there, taking in the view. He must have liked what he saw, because he growled and began moving towards me over the foot of the bed, approaching on all fours with feral grace.

By this time I was feeling somewhat vulnerable and definitely aroused. When he was kneeling on either side of my thighs, he ran his hands across my brief tunic, savouring the feel of my body through the silk, and I grew even more excited.

"What…" I said, but got no further.

"silence, slave," he growled and suddenly my concerns that he might have some difficulty removing my tunic seemed irrelevant, because he put one hand in the neckline and casually tore out the entire front of the garment, discarding it to the side and leaving me completely exposed. I gasped at the suddenness and violence of the movement, and I was about to protest when he came down on me like a lion on a gazelle.

I responded as best I could, but this was not the gentle mutual exchange of pleasure between a loving couple; this was the violent use of a slave by a master who knew exactly what he wanted and intended to extract every ounce of pleasure from his property. His hands were at my breasts, squeezing and tormenting them, tugging fiercely at the golden rings, before his cool touch roamed to other parts of my body. His mouth pillaged mine, my tongue felt like it was being sucked down his throat, and I tasted blood as my lips were crushed beneath his assault. He must have tasted it also, because his attack intensified. His knee nudged my thighs apart and then my body was being pounded into submission by the relentless assault of his manhood.

His mouth left mine, but I was too stunned to cry out; I could hardly gasp for breath as he licked and kissed and chewed around the collar I had put on for his enjoyment. He seemed incredibly attracted to it and aroused by it. I could feel his fangs against my neck and suddenly there were gold and white streaks in my brain as his thrusts increased in speed. I was losing control when suddenly he raised his head and looked into my eyes. I had the strangest sensation of being scorched by the intensity of his gaze. "Surrender to me, slave!" he demanded in a hoarse voice. I was not sure what he wanted and he repeated his command, even more urgently. I gasped out, "I surrender to you, master, I am yours," hoping it was what he needed to hear, and his eyes burned with exaltation and mastery. His fangs plunged into my neck on either side of the slave-collar and I cried out with pain and joy as he took me over the edge, where seconds later he joined me in his own climax, drinking from me while he thrust his way to victory and release between my thighs.

He collapsed on top of me, and lazily licked at the tiny wounds on my neck, even though he no longer need to do that as they would heal automatically. I think it was just habit. after a few minutes he rolled off me and lay on his back, looking up at the ceiling. Then he turned his head to look at me and smiled. I smiled back, and he reached up and unfastened the chains from the bedposts before lying down again. I sat up and was just about to speak when he placed his finger on my lips, motioning me to silence. He clearly wanted to savour the moment, and I was about to lie next to him when he spoke. "Kneel, slave." He obviously wanted to keep the game going a little while longer, so I obediently knelt next to him on the bed, my hands on my thighs, waiting for his next command.

"Clean my face, slave." I leaned forward and gently licked my own blood from his lips and chin. He opened his mouth and my tongue gently caressed his fangs. He definitely liked that. His arms came round me and we began to kiss, long and slow. My own fangs had run out and his tongue curled round them, sending shivers all over me. Then he kissed along the line of my jaw to my ear, and he nibbled my earlobe, making me gasp as a bolt of lightning ran straight to my pelvis. Then his mouth moved a little lower, his tongue flickering in between the collar and my neck; it seemed to fascinate him. I would have loved to have bitten him in my turn, but I restrained myself; this was about him at the moment. After my fun and games last night, it was his turn to call the shots. Eventually he stopped and said, "You may clean the rest of me now." I began to get off the bed to go in search of a washcloth when his hand on my arm stopped me. "With your mouth, slave." I got the strong feeling that this was closely connected to what he had told me earlier in the evening, so I moved down the bed until I was opposite the object of many of my better daydreams and leaned forward. He put his hands behind his head and gazed dreamily upwards. His fangs had now retracted fully and he was smiling. He looked so beautiful that I repressed a shiver of lust as I bent to my work.

As I gently licked and sucked him clean, he began to stir. I couldn't believe he was ready to go again, but the evidence was there in front of me. I bent to my task again, nuzzling his thighs and paying particular attention to the sensitive area at the base of his penis and by the time I had finished he was making little sounds and his hips were moving almost involuntarily. I knelt back and said, "is there anything else your slave can do for you, master?"

"You know there is." His voice was husky and he reached out and lifted and turned my body as if it was as light as a feather, seating me astride his waist. His upper body strength was phenomenal. He removed the wrist-chains by the simple expedient of snapping them with his long white fingers. "Now, clasp your hands behind your neck. Don't move them until I give you permission." I complied, although it felt a little exposed. I had to admit, though, the pose did show off my breasts nicely. "Now, slave, pleasure me." This was going to be different from last night. Then, I was in control, but now it was most definitely him. I obediently slid a little further down his body, kneeling up as he reached down and positioned himself below the entrance to my body. Then he gripped my hips and began to move me downwards, very very slowly, until he was almost completely engulfed within me and I was moaning in an agony of anticipation. I just wanted more of him; I wanted all of him. My eyes were closed, my fists were clenched in my hair and my fangs were fully extended as I said "Yes! Oh, yes! Oh, Eric….!"

"Master." He swiftly corrected me. I opened my eyes and looked into his. He wasn't kidding. I rose up almost his entire length before swiftly impaling myself to the full on his erection. He cried out at that, in what was presumably Old Norse, and I began to use my interior muscles to squeeze his length as firmly as I could. It was hard work, but from the look on his face and the sounds he was making it was worth it. I began to move on him and his hip movements matched mine but as I began to speed up he said "slowly," and used his hands on my hips to guide me into the rhythm he desired. Then his cool white hands drifted across my breasts, caressing lightly, twisting and tugging the rings as I sighed in ecstasy. He stroked my cheek and I turned my head and kissed his hand softly, calling him my master, as this seemed to turn him on more than anything.

Suddenly his hands were back at my hips and before I knew what was happening our positions were reversed and I was looking up at him as he assumed the position of the dominant male. He looked down at me with a exultant expression on his face and his hips started their relentless motion again. My hands were still behind my head, and I could not reach for him, so I raised my upper body and took his nipples into my mouth in turn. They were hard and erect, and I teased them with my tongue. "Use your fangs," he whispered, so I nipped them just a little. He made a sound deep in his chest and his pace quickened, and before I knew it our bodies were convulsing in climax and he was again crying out in his own language before allowing himself to collapse on top of me again. I decided my hands could move now, so I held him and caressed his broad muscular back and twined my fingers in his beautiful silky hair, and I whispered sweet nothings to him as he lay with his eyes closed, completely spent.

Eventually he opened his eyes and looked at me. His fangs were fully retracted now and he seemed relaxed and peaceful. His eyes fell on my collar, and he stroked it gently, smiling.

"Over the centuries I have been given many gifts by people seeking my favour or my protection; furs, jewels, gold, horses, weapons. But that was the most beautiful gift anyone has ever given me," he said softly.

"Any time," I replied.

"What made you do it? How did you guess I would enjoy it so much? I've never told anyone this."

"Well…" I hesitated, slightly reluctant to speak out. "I could see that what you told me wasn't easy for you, and I felt that you kind of made me a gift of your honesty, even though it hurt you. I wanted to give you a gift right back, and I just got the feeling that although you haven't owned a slave in a long time you would kind of really like to. I can't give you a real one, not these days, but I wondered if you would like to own your own slave again, even if only for a little while. Was I right?"

I was a little bit doubtful now that I was saying it out loud, but he smiled and said, "You were more right than you could possibly know. Somehow, your gift seems to have restored something in me; something that's been missing for almost longer than I can remember…"

"Maybe what was missing was your self-respect, sweetheart. Perhaps for all these years you've had a damaged view of yourself because of what Ocella did to you, and forced you to do when you were powerless, and that's why you've striven so much for power over others, demanding their respect. Now that Ocella is dead and someone's given you power over them of their own free will, without your taking it by force or glamouring them, maybe you feel you don't have to try quite so hard any more."

"I don't know; I'm no psychiatrist, but I do know that I feel good right now." He rolled off me and lay on his right side, looking down at me, propping up his head on one hand and gently tracing my contours and hollows with the other. "How about you? Did you enjoy being my slave?"

"Weirdly, it somehow felt fine. I mean, I don't believe in re-incarnation or any of that stuff, but if I did I might almost believe that I had been your slave in a former life. It didn't feel odd or anything, and I …." I stopped and if I'd still been human, I would have blushed.

"Go on," he prompted.

In a rush I said "I just loved kneeling at your feet. I know I did it when I offered you my fealty, but this felt different. Maybe it's because now you really are my master and I know I would do anything you demanded and you would do anything to keep me safe. That's why I kissed your feet. I hadn't planned to – it just felt right. Does that sound kinky and wrong? I mean, I'm not into S & M or bondage or anything like that; it just felt…right. Sorry."

He sat up in bed then, and took me into his arms and I snuggled there, held and loved and safe.

"My darling, please don't say sorry. There is nothing you could do in our lovemaking that I would consider wrong. It felt natural to me too; I loved having you at my feet. Maybe this was just meant to be." He paused, before continuing. "As we're being so honest with each other tonight, may I ask something more?"

"You can ask," I said, slightly cautiously.

This time it was his turn to hesitate. "That collar – it's so beautiful on you, and such a turn-on for me. I could hardly take my eyes off it." He stroked it lightly, and my body quivered under his touch. "Would you be willing to wear it a little longer for me? Hidden under your clothing if you like."

"Well, sure, but it's only a cheap imitation thing; I don't think it'll last very long."

"Maybe I should buy you a real one, in white gold, encrusted with diamonds and with my name engraved on it." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Think again, mister," I said. "I'm not a pet."

"Very well. It was only a passing thought."

"Well, it can just keep right on passing through. You don't need anything to remind you who I belong to."

"Say it, Sookie. Say the words. For me." He looked deep into my eyes, and I knew this was important to him.

"I belong to you, Eric. I always will." He smiled, delightedly.

"Then I think I shall set about claiming my territory," he said, and that's exactly what he did.