These characters belong to Charlaine Harris, except for Robert. He's mine.


Chapter 9

Eric

"I swear Robert, you have been spending too much time with Pam. Your tie is straight, your suit perfectly tailored. Stop primping."

"Yes, but I have a date with Pamela afterward, and she's bringing along a friend." Robert raised and lowered his eyebrows over wide eyes while grinning.

"You may be entering the realm of too much information. When will she be here?"

There had been quite a transformation in Robert after he had healed from his injuries. He was with Pam whenever he wasn't with Eric, and her influence on him came through in how he dressed and the respectful cockiness in his voice. Eric shook his head wondering how he would deal with what amounted to a male Pam.

Robert had earned some of that cockiness himself by killing de Castro and basically saving Eric's own head that night. It wasn't supposed to have gone down that way. He was supposed to exterminate de Castro and extract his revenge for everything Felipe and Victor had done to Sookie, not Robert. But he would hold no grudge against Robert for that.

Robert didn't like moving away from Shreveport once their injuries healed but at least they were still living in Area Five. It was the only place they could be safe. Robert would just have to learn to adjust.

He had bought this old plantation back when he suspected the takeover, when Queen Sophie-Anne returned from Rhodes with severe injuries and a lack of bodyguards to protect her. The attack at Rhodes had shuffled the deck, and all the vampire rulers were in play. This estate was a perfect hideout. He doubted if Pam knew about it, even with the estate located in her territory. He had taken much care in keeping this place secret from everyone.

"Sorry Eric. She'll be here in an hour." Robert moved to the desk and sat down, pulling out the envelope with Sookie's resume from the top drawer. "So I'm going to show her around the place and bring her to the study when I'm done. When are you going to make your appearance?"

"Depends. The time might not be right yet."

He was still shy of the six months he had agreed to stay away from Sookie, but the glimpses of her that he had gotten from sitting in the tree weren't enough. Not to mention that Pam had already invoked her Sheriff card once when she yelled at him for going to see her. Pam's ranting had only amused him; he would do what he wanted now that he was free.

Sookie had looked older and never more beautiful. There was a confidence to her now that hadn't been there before. He saw it in the way she walked and how she wasn't afraid. She had sensed him in the tree that night. How he had wanted to go to her then. Pam should be happy that he hadn't taken Sookie right into the house and into her bed. He wanted to touch her and tell her he was sorry. Not in a letter like he did when he left for Oklahoma.

"I can always ask her back for a second interview. Maybe that's a good strategy."

He let that one go by. Sookie wasn't strategy. If she thought that was how he tried to get her back, he wouldn't have a chance in hell with her. No, there was only one chance he could get her back, and that was by talking to her. It was what Sookie valued most in their relationship.

Sookie

Sookie flipped on her headlights and double checked the GPS suctioned to her dashboard. Only five more miles to the estate of the mysterious Robert Morrigan. Or more accurately, Robert Morrigan's boss. Sire. Whatever. If she was smart, she'd turn right around and take her chances finding a new job in Bon Temps or even Shreveport. Stay away from the vamps.

But something in her gut told her to follow through. She didn't bother to analyze what that was about either, but as soon as she got the call for the interview, her stomach had been full of excitement. Her head told her she needed the money, especially if she ended up taking the summer off to be with Hunter. Her gut and her head won over the logic that getting involved with vampires again would be dangerous and stupid. Besides, the job came recommended by Cataliades. He wouldn't steer her into trouble, would he? Pam also investigated the vampire living here and told her he posed no trouble.

Even so, the smarter move would be to turn the car around and go back home. The safer move would be to never get involved with vampires again, or any supes for that matter. But then again, what was she? With her fairy blood ancestry, It wasn't like she was entirely human either.

She kept the real reason she didn't turn the car around hidden from everyone, including herself. She took a deep breath. What if she was wrong? What if this path didn't lead her to Eric? Ever since things had started happening, she thought of him daily. All of the pieces she put together on her timeline made sense, including this shady job offer from Cataliades. She was going to find out what was going on. Eric was behind all of this, she just knew it in her gut, in the blood running through her veins. It had to be him.

She took a left onto the estate road. Anxiety grew in Sookie's belly as she drove the first two miles of the tree-lined driveway. It was too dark, too scary. She wanted to get out into the open spaces again. Her foot pressed down on the gas pedal, accelerating out of the darkness. After another mile, the road ended in front of a large two-story plantation-style house, complete with receiving porch and veranda on the second floor. She stopped the car at the door and took a longer look at the house. For as dark as the surrounding woods had been, the house wasn't dark. Lights shone inside and out, their warm glow welcoming her. New thermal windows replaced the old and the exterior had been recently painted from the faint paint smell lingering in the air. It was a grand home. Sookie grabbed her purse from the passenger seat and checked the wooden stake that fit into a side-pouch on her purse. She might be following her heart, but her head knew enough to be prepared even with the high probability that Eric was behind it all.

The walk to the door gave her the opportunity to reach out with her mind, scanning the area for voids. She felt at least one, maybe two. Maybe she should have had Pam come with her. Her head betrayed her and made her think this wasn't such a great idea.

The door opened and a vampire stood at the door. He looked to be in his early twenties, with dark hair just above his shoulders, brown eyes and a gorgeous smile. His dark suit fit perfectly. Something about him put her at ease, when he should have made her nervous. She searched for that second void she thought she felt earlier.

"Good evening, Miss Stackhouse. I'm Robert."

"Pleased to meet you. I never knew this place was out here."

"Yes, it's quiet here. Your potential employer likes it that way. Let me show you around and we can talk about the position. We'll start out at the guest house." Robert put his hand out, directing her back out the door. "I'm sure Mr. Cataliades told you this was a live-in position. There is an extensive collection of books and artifacts in the main house that need to the organized and catalogued. Because of concerns of theft my employer wishes his location to remain private, and he feels a live-in situation is best. He may want to turn this estate into a private library at some point."

That made sense, she thought. After a short walk down a well-manicured and landscaped path, Robert pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked the door of a small house. Sookie gasped as he pushed the door open and she walked in. The modern interior contained country furnishings and brand new appliances in the kitchen. The main attraction was the wall of windows overlooking a large open field. She imagined the sun shining through those windows and smiled. There were two large bedrooms with their own private bathrooms. It was nothing like her Gran's house in Bon Temps, although the country decor made her feel at home. It was lovely.

"This is the guest house?"

"Yes. This would be your home should you decide to stay." A small smile crossed Robert's face as he stared at her. "All utilities are included along with a laptop and secure Internet connection and anything you might need for your research. There's maid service every Tuesday and Saturday. We do have a daytime staff that takes care of the grounds and inside of the home."

"Who would have access to the house?" She walked around trying to contain her excitement. The place was beautiful. Who wouldn't want to live here?

"Only you. There would be a key available for maintenance issues and such, but you would be notified first. You would have your privacy."

She looked around. It all seemed too good to be true. Her host, or was it her interviewer, waited by the door, calm and confident, not in any hurry. Robert didn't exhibit any of the usual vampire behaviors. She felt safe around him. Why? She had just met him, but yet something seemed familiar about him. Something that made her feel calm. There was another person that made her feel calm like that.

"Why don't you show me the collection? I'm not sure that I know enough to help you. I'm still working on my degree."

"Let's go to the main house. I'll tell you all about salary and benefits as we walk."

When they arrived at the receiving porch, Robert pushed the door open wide. Through the foyer, a large circular staircase led to a second floor. Closed doors leading to other rooms flanked the stairs. Robert directed her past the magnificently curved stairs. "Most of the collection is in storage right now, but we do have quite a few items in the study, if you'll come this way."

Robert opened the door to a large room on the other side of the stairs, filled with books and other objects in boxes scattered all over the room. Boxes and boxes of amazing books. She walked around the room, peering into boxes as she circled around. Her fingers itched to organize it.

"Oh my, may I?" The books in this box looked particularly old, yet perfectly preserved. She wanted to touch them.

He nodded "The library is on the second floor. The entire second floor to be precise. You'd be helping to organize that library."

Sookie put the book back into the box and continued around the room, Robert somewhere behind her. Her heart might have stopped when she saw it sitting on the desk and her hand went to her chest to feel its reassuring beat.

She picked the velvet bag from the desk, the shape of the knife clearly outlined, the weight of it heavy in her hand. Just like it felt the last time she touched it, when she gave it to Eric in front of Victor. She wanted to take it out of the bag and see it, hold it in her hand. Eric had used this knife during their third blood exchange. Nothing had been the same after that.

"Where did you get this?"

"You remember it?"

Eric's voice rippled through her veins, like a wave that woke up every part of their comingled blood. It crashed over her, leaving her gasping for breath. It all came rushing back, his power over her, thoughts of the nights in bed with him, what he did to her...a gracious plenty indeed...and another wave rippled through her. She couldn't turn around. Every part of her had come to life with just the sound of his voice. She had expected it, anticipated it, longed to hear it, but the reality of it was so much more than she ever imagined. Yet she was too scared to turn around and face him. She'd fall, fast and hard, and who would catch her this time?

Hands reached around her, holding the soft bag with her. "You're remembering Victor, aren't you?"

He was so close, all she had to do was lean back and she would be in his arms again. She wasn't quite ready for that, but oh, she wanted to. She wanted his arms around her again, without the specter of another ruining everything.

"I remember Rhodes. Sharing blood with each other as Andre witnessed our bond. That's what I remember when I look at this knife." He took it from her hands, his fingers brushing hers, and a sound escaped her throat—a low, sexual sound. She didn't recognize her own voice. It had been so long since she'd have reason to make such a sound.

"But you left me to marry Freyda. It meant nothing to you. This, meant nothing to you." She spoke quietly and felt him flinch behind her.

"I know I left you, and for that, I will be eternally sorry for having hurt you. But it was the only way to keep you safe. The only way I could get back to you. And that meant everything to me. "

"Why didn't you just tell me that? Talk to me?" She took a deep breath and turned around to face him. He wore a concert t-shirt and blue jeans, flip-flops on his feet. Still devastatingly gorgeous, her knees went weak, her heart fluttered madly. Sookie stopped for a second before she raised her eyes to his, and when she did, his face lit up with a smile, the tiny tips of his fangs showing.

Heat rose in places she thought forever cold. Every moment she had missed him, the feelings she had bottled up inside after he left, exploded in her. She should be angry at him, she reminded herself, and instead she wanted to jump in his arms and kiss him. Angry—she could handle that much better than the overwhelming desire that pooled between her legs.

Eric dropped his eyes for a moment, before he looked right into Sookie's eyes. "I should have talked to you. I tried to, but not hard enough. When I found out you had the cluviel dor, I thought I could get out of my obligations the easy way. I should have known better. There is never an easy way with vampires."

"No, there isn't," she said. "What happened to de Castro?" Unsaid words hung in the air between them.

"He's finally dead."

"So it was you."

"I wanted it to be me. I planned that I would be the one to end him, but no, it was Robert. He saved me too."

"You're Robert's maker." She didn't have to question him. It made sense.

"Yes. He helped me when I had no one to trust in Oklahoma. And before you ask, it was his decision to be turned."

"So...Pam? And Robert? Isn't that weird or forbidden or something? Incest?" How she managed to miss that one she didn't know. And she didn't know if she wanted to laugh or lose her lunch over the whole thing, but they did make the perfect couple. It said something about Eric too, that his progeny weren't forced to stay with him, but did so willingly.

"Yes. Pam and Robert. It's like being around two teenagers. And no, we do not consider it incest."

Sookie laughed and then paused as she moved away from him. He was too close. She needed some distance. Where was this all going? "I'm glad you both made it then. Does Freyda know?"

"Some of it. She helped plan and pay for most of it, so she and Stan could take over Felipe's territories. I agreed to help her if she would grant my freedom afterwards."

That made Sookie angry. "And you didn't think to tell me that either."

"I could tell no one, not even Pam. If de Castro had found out we were playing him, he would have taken us all down. I needed to keep you safe. You and Pam."

" Did you sleep with Freyda as part of this plan?" Sookie fiddled with something at the desk, before looking up at him. She needed to look into his eyes when he answered this. And yet there was a little voice inside her that said the answer didn't matter. She still loved him. The question was whether she could forgive him, and he couldn't answer that for her. The silence was deafening.

"I fulfilled my obligations with Freyda. Nothing more."

"So you did it, but you didn't like it?" Sookie pushed a breath out of her chest, not realizing she had been holding it. "And what about your obligation toward me, Eric? Wasn't I your wife? I often thought the whole vampire marriage thing meant little to you and you proved me right. Your obligation toward your sire was more important than your obligation to your wife." Her voice shook a little. It felt good to get it out. To say these things she wanted to say two years ago. Normally, she would have burned this bridge already. Moved on. But his answer was important to her. She needed to know how he could do it.

"I made a choice, Sookie. If I had not honored the contract my maker had signed, then de Castro would have had an excuse to punish me. You know what that would have meant. So, yes, I made a choice. The choice that would mean safety for you. I will never accept final death over protecting you. I knew the chance I took, leaving you that way. The chance you would never forgive me. But I would do that one thousand times over if it was the only means for your safety."

The air hung heavy between them. There were too many emotions now, swirling around, still unresolved. Sookie took a deep breath. "What is it you want from me Eric?"

He moved closer and took her hand. She didn't pull away and he found her eyes before he spoke. "I want to stay with you always. Live together. We can know each other's bodies in every way, night after night. I would love you and share all I have with you. I'm done with the politics, Sookie. Do you remember how happy we were when the witches took my memory? I know what I want, what I have always wanted. You are my heart's desire. I didn't know it then, but I know it now. I want a simple life with you, for however long I can have it. I'm not asking for anything more than that."

She remembered the words and when he had said them to her. He'd made this offer to her once before, only he didn't have his memory then. But he remembered, and he had his memory now. Could they possibly make it work? Could she forgive him? She wasn't sure if she could or not. They just couldn't go back to where they were before he left for her another woman, no matter what the reason... could they?

No, she wouldn't go along with that. "You'll be bored with me Eric. You'll miss the politics. We'll be right back to where we were."

"No. I'll cherish every moment we would have to spend together, for however long we have. All I'm asking for is a chance, Sookie."

The knock on the door was a welcome diversion. Robert carried in a tray containing a pitcher of tea and a bottle of synthetic blood and set it on the side table.

"Some refreshments Eric. Will you be needing anything else?"

Eric motioned for Sookie to take a seat while he poured her a glass of tea. "I believe that's code for Pam is waiting. That will be all, Robert."

"Nice to finally meet you, Sookie."

"Likewise, Robert. "

Sookie took a sip of her tea and tried to relax. Everything was coming at her so fast. One minute she was trying to find ways to take Hunter in for the summer, and now Eric was asking her to make a new life with him. Could she trust him? Every time she heard his voice, it started a reaction inside of her that said she wanted him back.

"Look, Sookie. I know you are having trouble accepting my sincerity. You have good reason not to trust me. I forced you to live as my wife under my rules only, and that wasn't fair. I've had plenty of time to think about that. We can go slow. I'm just making my intentions known to you, nothing more. I still want you. I never stopped loving you. I'm offering what I once offered you and this time, I'm not under a witch's spell. I'll wait however long it takes. We don't have to decide everything right now."

"So if I said no nookie until I was ready, you'd accept that?"

He hesitated for a second, more to tease her than anything. "Yes, as long as I could try to convince you otherwise. I've thought about that witch's curse every day since I left Louisiana. Closest to my heart's desire. For the longest time I thought that meant only you, but then I realized that it meant everything about you. How you live, the life we could have together. That curse didn't make me into someone else Sookie. It stripped away every defense I had built up around me. I remember every moment. What we had. I'd very much like to have that with you again."

"So how do you see this working Eric?"

"I don't know Sookie. Do humans know how it's all going to work when they marry? Do they know of every challenge they will face? No, they don't. They figure it out together. I want us to figure it out together. We never had a chance to do that before. So much politics. I hated it. Hated my maker for it. Hated Freyda for forcing the contract. Hated myself for agreeing to it. I don't want that. I want you and I, talking by the fire. Preferably naked. That's what I want my life to be. And I think, I hope that's what you want too. I should have told you that sooner."

"You'll get tired of me, Eric. I'm going to get old. You won't want me then."

He held out his hand for her, and then backed her up to the desk. He reached out to tip up her chin so he could look into her eyes.

"You are beautiful, and smart. Loyal too. You have a sense of fun and adventure. You're brave."

"Stop Eric. That's not what I'm talking about."

He stepped a little closer to her, wanting to be as close as he was the last time he had said those words to her. "Do you think all those qualities fade when you get older Sookie? They don't. They get richer. Become more a part of you. You aren't beautiful to me just because of your anatomy Sookie, you are beautiful to me because of who you are. Now where was I? Oh yes, responsible, hardworking..." He tapped his chin as his lips curled into a wicked smile. "There was one more thing..."

Sookie's eyes sparkled up at him. Could she relent and give him another chance? He was much too close to think, all she wanted was to touch him, kiss him. Have him kiss her. She reached up and touched his face. Her voice was quiet. "Shall I refresh your memory?"

Like always, Eric made her feel a little decadent and naughty. She knew she shouldn't do this. She shouldn't put her heart on the line again. So what if she was still attracted to him and still saw the good things in him? Those days she took him in were some of the happiest in her life. Could they repeat history and be that happy again? She wouldn't know if she didn't try.

Sookie leaned up and brushed her lips against his. His heart's desire. Did she really mean that to him? The thought warmed her from the inside out.

"Ah, now I remember," he smiled and kissed her again. "Creative..."

She gave into his kiss, she couldn't stop herself. His arms held her up and she pressed against his body. Every part of her suddenly remembered what sex was like and what she had been missing the last few years without him.

He inhaled deeply at her neck, her hair, in the valley between her breasts. She let him. "I can't help myself Sookie," he croaked out. "I want to bite you and fuck you and rub myself all over you, and not necessarily in that order."

She giggled like a school girl. It was with great difficulty she pulled away and didn't lose herself completely to him. She wasn't ready for that.

"I need some time Eric. I came here expecting a job offer, not a proposal for something entirely different."

"A marriage Sookie. I'm offering you a marriage, not a conventional one, but a real one. And you can have as long as you need. Maybe we could just start with the job part. Would you like to help me catalogue all these items?" He gestured around the room. "We could just spend some time together."

"Like date?"

"Our own special way of dating, but yes, you could look at it like that."

"I need to about it. Time, I need time, and I need to go home." She picked up her purse. "I do have one question though." She smiled at him. "Who's Rick Pinsetter?"

Sookie played catch with Hunter in the back yard. Remy had a day trip south to check out the new job he wanted, and Hunter was spending the day. They tossed the softball between them and she thought about what she was going to tell Eric. It had been a week. Her own sense of right and wrong wouldn't let her leave him hanging. She believed his reasons for the decisions he had made. He had been thinking of her, not just in the moment, but in the long run. She couldn't blame him for the choices he'd made. What choice would she make? He hadn't given her the choice about marriage the last time. This time was different. This wasn't some clandestine, secretive marriage he wanted with her. Was it?

What would she do with Hunter if she went to Eric? It was starting to look like Remy was getting that job down south. Could she leave Hunter behind? Take Hunter with her? She wasn't sure how Eric would handle Remy knowing where he lived, but if he didn't mind, there was plenty of room for Hunter in the guest house.

Hunter threw the ball and she missed it. The ball rolled down the yard. "Sorry, Aunt Sookie. I'll go get it."

"How about we take a break? There's some grape soda in the refrigerator. Had to hide it from Jason, but I think I saw a bottle or two in the back."

Hunter dropped the ball in Sookie's mitt as she held it out to him, then he ran into the house for the soft drinks. Sookie took a seat in the lawn chair, soaking up the afternoon sun.

"Here you go, Aunt Sookie. I opened them myself and everything!"

"That's great Hunter. Come sit down over here."

"You look different. Did something good happen? You look happy." Hunter smiled at her.

Sookie laughed and took a long drink of her pop. "You think I look happy?"

"You do. Did something happen with that Eric guy?"

Sookie dropped the bottle that had been halfway to her lips. "What? And why are you smiling like that?"

"I made a wish on that good luck charm you gave me. I know you said it didn't work anymore, but I thought maybe if I wished on it every night, and really meant it, I could get it to work for you."

"What exactly did you wish for Hunter?"

"I wished that Eric would come back and make you happy. He loves you forever. He carved that in the tree."

"Nothing wrong with wishing, I suppose. Sometimes they do come true." She paused for a minute, and put her hand on his head. "What if Eric coming back meant that you couldn't stay with me as much? How would you feel about that?

Hunter stopped fidgeting and looked down at his hands. "I want you to be happy. That's what I would choose." I would miss you though.

She pulled him tight against her and hugged him.

After Remy picked up Hunter, Sookie took a shower and sat on her bed. Letting herself remember the nights she'd spent with Eric, she thought about what she was going to tell him. She thought about her life, and what she had been through the last few years. She had been content on her own. She couldn't say happy. She loved school, but there was something missing in her life. She couldn't deny that.

She dug in the back of her closet and found what she needed. It still fit. She fixed her hair, every moment building the excitement in her belly. When she liked what she saw in the mirror, she locked up the house and got in her car.

The ride to Eric's estate seemed to take forever. She hadn't called to say she was coming. What if he wasn't home? Maybe that was a sign that she was making the wrong decision. Don't overthink this Sookie.

She knocked on the door and smoothed her dress, the first one he had seen her in at Fangtasia.

The door opened, and he stood there, a questionable smile curling his lips. He took a long look at her, from her toes and up. The memory of the first time he had done that made her blush. She had been nervous then, and she was just as nervous now, but for a different reason. Sookie took a deep breath, getting ready to say what she came to say, but he beat her to it.

"Well, aren't you sweet?"

Did he remember everything? She thought for a moment. "Not especially," she said with a sly

smile. "But I have decided to accept your job offer."

His expression smoothed over, as if he was preparing himself for bad news. "What does that mean exactly?"

She had thought for a week about what she wanted and what would make her happy. And since her talk with Eric, she thought a lot about what she would have done in that situation. She thought about her future, and mostly she thought of spending night after night in that study with all those books...and Eric. He had been right about something. There were no guarantees. But there was forgiveness and love and it was hers for the giving and taking.

"It means we are going to take things slow."

"You still love me."

"Slow Eric. But yes, I still love you."

His smile lit up his face, that hint of fang making her knees go weak. He gathered her into his arms, and kissed her. And then kissed her again.

The End.


I hope you enjoyed the story. If you left a comment, made this story one of your favorites, or followed me or this story, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I've been touched by your support of this story.

To my friend, sometimes co-writer, fellow sports fan and beta reader, BonTempsCutie, this story would not have happened without your encouragement and generous time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So what's next?

I'm editing a story called Adventures in Car Collecting, a Mac/ Barrons Fever Fic that should post within the month. And if you like the Fever Series, be sure to check out BonTempsCutie's Fever fics, The Battle of Jericho (it's fabulous—go read it!) and The Object of His Desire.

To all the Eric-shippers… Keep the faith!

Hugs, tradermare