Sookie was staring out of the window of her penthouse bedroom as she sat on the sill. She barely absorbed the beautiful nighttime cityscape of Dallas which stretched as far as the eye could see like a river of white and golden lights in an ocean of black. Her eyes followed a helicopter in the distance, its lights blinking like little white specs against the backdrop of the midnight sky. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was an emergency chopper taking an injured patient to the hospital.
Sookie sighed and turned her cell phone absentmindedly in her hand. She had just gotten off the phone with Christopher’s parents who were currently with him at the hospital. She informed them what had happened earlier, and had tried to insist on coming over to visit.
“He’s sleeping and isn’t going to know you came anyway,” his father had said. “You girls have had a rough night. Get some rest and come tomorrow. He’s in good hands.”
Sookie had been given her own ‘sleeping quarters’ as Godric had called it. It may have been a little rude, but she had retreated to the room shortly after arriving at the penthouse. She needed some time alone to think and she was upset about what happened to her friend. Brandy too had gone to her room to shower and change, but she assumed her best friend was just as shaken as she was about Christopher.
Eric and Godric were gracious, giving the girls their space and Sookie was grateful for it. Eric had been uncharacteristically quiet since they had arrived at the penthouse, a total change from the side of him she saw on their date. He seemed deep in thought and though one wouldn’t be able to tell from his near emotionless expression, she thought she saw a hint of compassion in his eyes.
She got up from the windowsill and walked over to the bed. It was huge, extravagant, like everything in this place, but the furry blanket spread over it reminded her of a bygone age where people slept in front of fire hearths in little wood structures as they gazed out of the smoke holes at the starry Milky Way. The simplicity of it reminded her of Eric and how he must have lived when he was a human, which oddly made him seem so much more complicated. She flopped down on it with a heavy thud and rolled over on her side, her cheek buried in the soft fur. It gave her some semblance of contentment as she enjoyed the feel of it against her skin.
She had already changed into her sleeping clothes, a pair of minimalist white shorts that had a drawstring waist and a pink night shirt that scooped at the neck and fluttered at the sleeves. They were her most comfortable clothes and she always slept in them.
Christopher had given them to her as a gift many years ago when Brandy told him she slept in a fleece gown that went to her feet. He’d said she looked like an old granny puttering around the house at night.
The thought brought her mind back to Christopher. She furrowed her brow, trying to fight back the onslaught of emotions and tears. All the blood… the broken glass… Christopher lying on the ground with his eyes closed. She had thought he was dead. She was relieved but at the same time if they had gotten there two minutes later he would most assuredly be dead. He was one of her dearest friends, like family. It was enough to make her cry.
Pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs, she let the tears flow, and flow they did. She didn’t even realize she was hiccupping and making loud weeping sounds. She didn’t care. She just wanted to wrap her heart around it so she could absorb what happened, so she could feel the raw emotions of her compassion, so she could feel human. It felt right; like she was telling Christopher she loved him.
“I’m s…s…sorry Chri…ri…stopher. It’s all my f…fault,” she whimpered in an unintelligible voice between sobs and hiccups.
The voices of what the others had said echoed in her head. Godric had suggested that she might have acquired a vampire stalker. Eric said it could have been because of her smell. Even Brandy said it might have been the vampire who drugged her. Had Christopher been beaten and nearly killed because of her?
She jumped when she felt a cool hand on her back through the thin fabric of her night shirt. Pushing herself up on one arm, she looked over her shoulder where she found a pair of concerned blue eyes gazing back at her. Just great, it was the last thing she wanted. Now she looked even more pathetic, crying alone in her room like a child.
“E…Eric,” she said turning away and quickly wiping her eyes. She took a deep breath to stifle her cries.
Eric still had his hand softly pressed to her back. He whispered from behind her. “Sookie?”
A moment of silence passed, the only sounds were the soft breaths of her post-sobbing as she tried to gather herself. She was afraid if she spoke the tears would pour out of her, and she didn’t think she knew Eric well enough to dump her emotions on him.
When she didn’t respond he stood up and took a few steps to sit down on the other side of her so he could see her face. She was still lying on her side, leaned up on one elbow as she covered her face with her hands.
“Please don’t cry,” he said, gripping her wrist and lowering her hand from her face so he could see her. She imagined her face was swollen and flushed from her crying and her eyes looked every direction to avoid his gaze. He lifted her chin so she had to look him in the eyes. When she did, the intensity and concern on his face only made her own face contort as she fought back another wave of sobbing.
Get it together Sookie. You look like a cry-baby, she told herself.
She started to turn away again in order to gain some control over her emotions, but strong arms gathered her in a tight embrace. She felt his long fingers snake into the hair at the back of her head and press the side of her face to his shoulder while his other arm wrapped around her back and held her firmly.
For a moment she was caught off guard, but she soon melted against him. She hadn’t known how much she needed this, the feel of another persons understanding and empathy. How ironic is it that she got that comfort from a vampire; they were rumored to be devoid of deep emotions.
With her face nuzzled into his neck she could smell his heady scent, the same scent she had noticed during their first meeting in the elevator. It was fresh and clean, like an ocean breeze or crisp morning dew; she wasn’t sure which. She even tasted it on her lips from when her warm salty tears that moistened his neck and mingled with his skin.
He whispered into her hair, “Why would you think this is your fault?”
Crap. He had heard her wallowing in her self-pity.
Sookie drew away from him, leaving a cold space between their bodies as she looked at her hands. She started to reach to her face to wipe away the tears, but he caught her hand in his. Reaching up with his other hand, he thumbed away the moisture under her eyes. Then he leaned forward and kissed the cheek bone where her tears had been, lingering there for a few seconds before slightly leaning back and looking her square in the eyes.
“Why do you think you are at fault, Sookie?”
She started speaking in a rush. “I didn’t know I smelled so good to vampires. You and Godric said it was probably a stalker. If I knew, I would have avoided going out at night. Then… Then maybe Christopher wouldn’t have nearly been… killed.”
She bit her bottom lip when she realized she was rambling, and her cracked and broken voice didn’t make it sound any better.
Her eyes widened when a flash of anger swept across his face, but as quickly as it was there, it was gone. “I should not have assumed that. We do not know that. In fact, it is more likely that I am the one to blame for the misfortune of your friend.”
“You?” She gasped. “Why would you be the one to blame?”
“I have many enemies, Sookie. This would not be the first time one of my adversaries tried to hurt someone I care about.”
He pulled her closer to him, cradling her across his lap. She looked up into his blue eyes and for a moment she became lost. Seconds seemed to stretch into eons as they stared at each other.
“I promise you,” he said while brushing a wisp of hair out of her face. “I will keep you safe.”
“You really think I’m in danger?”
“I do,” he said regretfully. “I think you and your friend Brandy should stay here so Godric and I can protect you. Stay here until we discover who the assailant is.”
It occurred to her, as Eric held her trying to comfort her, that there was more to this billionaire tycoon vampire than she had read about in the tabloids; more than she had seen thus far with her own eyes. Though his heart didn’t beat, he had a big heart. He may not realize it, but he was showing her in that very moment a side to him that she didn’t expect: a softer, kinder side that shined through the crumbling flirtatious exterior that he liked to display.
She stared up at his eyes as he stared back down at her, slightly taken aback by his tenderness, and she was all of a sudden grateful that he had come into her life. She could feel the void of his mind humming above her, and she wondered what sort of thoughts ran through the mind of a thousand year old vampire. The tragedies he must have witnessed; the atrocities in his long life. Wars, death, and the utter chaos through the ages that he must have endured; it made her small trauma seem so much more insignificant.
“Eric, thank you.”
“For being such a good friend; for listening to me, and for giving us a place to stay.”
He let out a quiet grunt at the word friend and started to say something more but his phone rang. He reached in his pocket and retrieved it. Looking at his phone to see who was calling, he let out a small growl.
“Northman,” he said gruffly, pressing the phone to his ear. “Levi, we are going to have to reschedule. Something has come up.” He glanced down at Sookie and the corner of his mouth twitched up in a small smile.
There was a pause as he listened to Levi on the other end while he stared at her. Sookie gazed back up at him, still lying across his lap.
“Fine… Yes, Godric and I are both here. We will hold the meeting as scheduled but it will have to be quick.”
He ended the call and looked down at Sookie with a heavy sigh. “I am sorry but I have a work meeting; something I cannot get out of. Levi is due to arrive here shortly to discuss quarterly profits. It should not take long.”
She got up and walked over to her night bag which was sitting in a chair. Digging through it she said, “I have something for you.”
Eric arched an eyebrow as he watched her with rapt attention. Her back was to him as she slightly bent over her bag and rummaged through it. His eyes wondered to the back of her long, tanned thighs. Her incredibly short shorts did nothing to hide the most alluring part of a woman’s anatomy, most alluring to a vampire because of the femoral artery on the inside of the thigh and the pleasure that was hidden from his eyes at the juncture of those silky legs.
He tried to look away; slightly disgusted with himself for thinking sexual thoughts when Sookie was so distraught, but he could not help it. He could not tear his eyes away as he watched the loose material on the back of her shorts lift slightly when she bent over further, revealing the creases where her legs turned into her bottom.
“You brought me something?” His mouth moved on auto-pilot but his mind was lost.
“Yes, when you sent me that gift,” she turned slightly looking at him as she still bent over the bag and his eyes quickly flicked up to hers. “You know the over six feet of sinful taffy? I got you a gift in return.”
“You did?” He was surprised as he sat like a statue on the edge of the bed.
She turned around with a small box in her hand. “Yes, I did,” she said smiling, seeming to gain back some of her cheerful attitude, though he could still see a hint of sadness in her eyes.
He watched her walk back up to him. “You did not have to…”
“I wanted to… and believe me it was really hard to figure out what to get a thousand year old vampire. But I think I got the perfect gift.”
She sat down beside him, her leg and hip pressed against his, and handed him the box.
He opened the lid and lifted out a small glass bottle with a white ribbon tied around the neck. He could smell the blood inside the bottle and he quirked an eyebrow at her.
She saw his confused expression and slightly laughed. “It’s blood. You know that gourmet blood shop on Baker Avenue?”
He nodded, a shocked expression on his face which made her giggle again.
“Well I went in there to get you a bottle of some of their fancy blood. It seemed appropriate since you sent me food and all. It was really expensive though and I…” She looked down a little embarrassed. “I couldn’t afford it, but before I left I saw a stand with these fancy bottles and a sign that said: The best gift you can give a vampire is a bit of yourself.”
He raised his eyebrows in disbelief as he carefully lifted the tiny bottle. “This is your blood?”
“Yep,” she said proudly. “I know it probably isn’t as good as the gourmet blood but I thought it’d be a funny gift, like your taffy joke. Now you can drink under five and half feet of goody-two-shoes.”
A loud laugh escaped his lips and it turned more mirthful as he lifted his head and looked at her.
“What?” A smile danced across her face even though her eyes showed her confusion.
“Sookie,” he said, turning the bottle of her precious blood in his hand and staring at it with great interest. “I’m not sure you quite understand what a gift like this signifies.”
“What do you mean?” Her smile faded thinking she had dome something wrong.
He didn’t want to embarrass her. How could he tell her such an intimate gift meant that she was offering herself to be his? How could he tell her that to taste her would be pure heaven?
“It is a lovely gift,” he said staring deep in her eyes. “No one has ever given me such a gift. Thank you; I will savor this drink.”
Her smile returned. “I’m glad you like it. I’m sorry it isn’t the gourmet stuff.”
He grinned, showing straight white teeth, and she saw his fangs were slightly extended. “I am sure that the gourmet ‘stuff’ pales in comparison.”
“Speaking of drinks, do you mind if I get myself a glass of water from the kitchen? My throat is really dry. First, I’m going to call Christopher’s parents again and see if he is still sleeping.”
“Of course. There are glasses you can use in the cupboard and the human security men often keep bottled water chilled in the refrigerator. Please help yourself while you are staying here.”
His eyes wondered down to her neck, which was completely bare from her scoop necked shirt and pulled up hair. He willed his fangs not to snap out even further. Things were delicate at the moment with Sookie’s frazzled emotions and he was sure she would not appreciate him hitting on her like he had been doing on their date.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll be in the kitchen in a little bit to grab a drink then I think I’m going to go to sleep.”
An expression of disappointment flitted across his features. “Yes, I imagine you are tired after everything that has happened tonight.”
His phone rang again and he put it to his ear. “Alright,” he said in the phone. “I will be there in a few seconds.”
Ending the call and looking at Sookie he said, “Levi is here for our meeting.”
“You go do that. Thanks for everything Eric. Thanks for making me feel better.”
He reluctantly stood up as he fingered the small bottle of blood she had gifted him. He was tempted to open it and chug it right then and there. But he wanted to heat it up to the perfect temperature and savor it as if he was drinking it from her vein.
He put it in his pocket knowing that it would be emptied by the end of the night and little chills ran up his body.
Half an hour later Sookie was walking down a hall with a glass of ice water in her hand, heading back to her bedroom to go to sleep for the night. The hall seemed to go on forever, the place was huge and she had a little trouble remembering which way to go. She couldn’t recall if it was right or left at the end of the second hall before she went up the stairs to the second level sleeping quarters.
Turning left and hoping it was the right way, she smacked against a hard chest and staggered backwards, spilling a few drops of her water.
“Whoa there sweatheart,” a cheerful voice said. Strong hands gripped her arms to steady her.
She craned her head to look up at hazel eyes that shined back down at her. “Oh sorry!” She took several steps backwards, startled. “Levi, right?”
He smiled widely, showing glowing white teeth and very long fangs which made her gasp slightly. “You remember! I wasn’t sure if you would since you were drugged.”
With every step she took backwards, he matched her with one forward, leaving no more than an arms length between them. With him being so close all she could smell was his heavy scent. It seemed every vampire she came across had one, not just Eric. Levi’s was an earthen smell laced with vanilla.
“Um, yea. I’m sorry about that night. I hope I didn’t act too foolish. It’s still foggy.”
He shook his head, a smile still plastered to his face. “Nonsense, foolish is the last thing I think you are.”
She laughed nervously and looked around only to realize she was against the wall and Levi was standing right in front of her, blocking her way. She suddenly felt like she was being tracked, stalked by a predator, and it was the first time she thought of the vampires for what they truly were, hunters. They were hunters that had evolved to be alluring to humans, everything about them was enticing, right down to their looks and the way they moved their bodies. They were the perfect predator that drew their prey in like a moth to a flame.
His deep voice made her gaze dart back to his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you nervous.” He dragged a hand through his hair and grinned back down at her. “I was just worried that I hurt you when we collided.”
His eyes swept over her collar bone and neck and her exposed shoulder where her shirt had slipped off when they ran into each other.
“Oh… No, I’m fine.” She smiled up at him, trying to look thankful and lifted her shirt back onto her shoulder which drew his intense gaze. “I should have been watching where I was going.”
He seemed to realize he was scaring her and took a step back, making her sigh in relief.
“Eric and Godric told me what happened tonight at your apartment. You’ve had a hard few nights, sweatheart; first Compton at the bar, now this.”
“Yea, I think I’d be screwed if not for y’all that night.”
He stepped back up to her, closer this time, half an arms length away and his hazel eyes became dark and hooded and his perfect face loomed above her. “Look, this might be presumptuous of me,” he whispered with a small chuckle, “But Eric isn’t the only vampire who can offer you protection.”
“What?” She realized she was flat against the wall as his eyes bore into her.
The palm of his hand landed on the wall beside her head and he leaned in close, inhaling her scent deeply. A pain shot through her skull when he spoke next. The same sort of pain she felt on her date with Eric when he tried to glamour her to tell him why she didn’t wear the contacts, and she was sure Levi was about to attempt to compel her to submit to him.
That isn’t what he did though and what he said next caught her completely by surprise. “Oh Sookie,” he sighed, “do I have any chance with you or are you Eric’s already?”
She clenched her eyes shut as the pain wormed its way through her skull. “Please stop trying to glamour me, you’re hurting me.”
She looked at him to see him stepping back, his eyes wide and shocked. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…”
“That’s right,” a growl at the end of the hall drew her attention and Levi whipped his head around to see Eric standing there, a look of rage on his face. “You should not have.”
The Viking started slowly walking towards Levi; his eyes locked in a death stare as he moved towards the other vampire.
Levi took a step away from Sookie, his lips slightly parted, his fangs fully extended, ready to fight if need be. Eric was older than him. He would probably lose, but not without putting up a good fight. Plus, he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of Sookie.
“Get. Away. From. Her,” Eric growled, enunciating every word. He was on the verge of launching himself at Levi.
“Stop this nonsense at once!” Godric’s voice was quiet but eerily commanding and frightening as he stood in an open door way at the end of the hall. Sookie looked over to see his stony face as he stood motionless in the light from the room he had been in. The eldest vampire looked over at her and continued speaking. “Sookie is not for you, Levi; you know this. You cannot have her and you are well aware of this.”
Sookie looked over at Eric who was now gazing at her. What did all of this mean? Why can’t Levi have her? Not that she wanted him to ‘have’ her, but shouldn’t that be her choice?
“Sookie,” Godric’s voice brought her attention back to him. “I think it wise that you retire to your sleeping quarters for the remainder of the night. I apologize for Levi’s propositions and Eric’s outburst.” He looked over at the two vampires and narrowed his eyes. “The matter will be dealt with… swiftly. Eric will come and bid you goodnight shortly.”
Sookie quickly turned and started scurrying away, her glass of water still in her hand.
“Sookie,” Godric called as she hurried down the hall.
She stopped to turn and look at him. “Yes?”
“Your sleeping quarters are the other way.”
With a tinge of pink on her cheeks, she turned around and walked past Eric and Levi as they followed her every move, then past Godric who was still standing in the doorway. The vampires remained silent as she made her way down the hall, which seemed to take ten years, it was so long. She could feel their eyes on her back as she walked away.
A/N: You are standing at the side of the road at midnight, nervously rubbing your arms beside your broken down car when you hear a noise in the trees. You cautiously walk over to the woods and peer in to see over six feet of sin standing in the moonlight, his cell phone in his hand. His head snaps to you, lip peeled off his fangs in a hiss. He looks you up and down before speaking. “Hi beautiful. I’m trying to leave feedback for my favorite author but these modern devices are impossible. If you could help me I would be eternally grateful.”