“You heard the lady. Back off!”
My heart jumped to my throat and I forgot to breathe. I knew that voice. I knew those hands. Boy did I know those hands!
Did the whole room just shift its axis?
Was I finally having my long due meltdown?
I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing till I felt light headed and the room swam in front of my eyes. Eric removed his hand from my back and snaked his arm around my waist to firmly hold me and keep me standing on my feet. I felt his head bend down to my shoulder for a moment and he inhaled deeply, before whispering in my ear. “Breathe Sookie…Breathe!”
Yeah! I was definitely having my long due meltdown!
I looked up and saw that while Alcide had been growling before, he had now whipped up a full blown temper tantrum and was trying to shoot daggers at Eric, with his eyes. Through gritted teeth, he managed to sputter, “Get your hands off my woman Vampire!”
Something snapped within me…
I placed my hand on top of Eric’s, resting on my stomach, and pressed it slightly. He tilted his hand and I entwined my fingers with his. Eric leaned in and pulled me back imperceptibly, so that my back was flush against him. He probably didn’t know it, but to me, that slight sign of support meant so much at that moment. A sigh left my lips, but I controlled the single tear that was threatening to fall from my eye.
I couldn’t tear up now.
It was time to be strong.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I looked at him levelly and told him in as much of a calm voice as I could manage. “We need to talk!”
Alcide was still fuming. “Damn right we need to talk.” But he was not looking at me. He was looking at Eric.
Eric’s suddenly straightened and loosened his grip on my hand, I guess giving me an out if I wanted. It touched a chord in my heart that he was still trying to keep his word to stay away from my life. I felt like I had put another piece of my life’s puzzle in the right place. It just felt right the right piece.
I dug my fingers in his hand and held it to me in a death grip. We were so close that I was the only one that heard him sigh quietly as I held on to him.
That’s about the time when I realized the whole room had gone silent and everybody was staring at us.
I felt him lower his face to my hair and inhale deeply. Then he nodded.
I heard the entire damn conversation. I knew Thalia wanted to go and strangle Bill for overstepping the restraining order she put on him, concerning Sookie. She was just controlling her urge in deference to my presence and the event. I, on the other hand, was grasping at the straws on controlling my anger and everything being thrown at Sookie. I knew Sookie could be maddening at times, but this was certainly not any way to speak to her. When she asked what the hell the dog meant by allowing Tara and Jessica to talk to her, I had a similar question boiling inside me. Yeah, what the hell indeed!
However, my control ran out when the bloody mutt flat out lied to Sookie that she was safe from vampires only because he stood guard…
What the fuck!
I had gotten a fucking edict issued that protected the fairies and Sookie by default. I had Thalia see to Sookie’s safety in case the rogue vampires attacked her. I knew Niall had put all kinds of wards around her house and her workplace to keep her protected. Sookie was safe. I would never leave her unprotected.
Was Alcide really that big a prick?
I turned and walked towards their small group when Sookie told Billy and Alcide to go fuck themselves…Sounded like fucking music to my ears… I didn’t have to think much about why I enjoyed her words so much or why they aroused me. It was simple. Everything the minx did got a rise out of me…
Yeah…she affected me that much…
Still affected me that much…
My arms acted on their own when they caught her from tripping on her own dress. So did my mouth as I smirked and repeated her musical words to the two idiotic suitors posturing for her. Didn’t they ever learn how she would react to a pissing contest? But then again, where Sookie was concerned, such things just happened, all on their own.
When I touched her, I felt all of my blood come alive and warm up. It was similar to what I had felt when I woke up this evening, only this time, it was five times more in magnitude. I had been sure before and this just confirmed it. I didn’t know how it happened, but the bond that Sookie and I started in her home, in the cubby, had certainly come to life again. I had thought it withered as time went by and since the last two years, I hadn’t felt it at all. But it came rushing back as I touched Sookie and it brought a rush of feelings with it. I could feel her. Feeling her familiar presence again was so cathartic, I didn’t even concentrate on what exactly she was feeling at that point. I just reveled in the fact that I could feel each and every emotion going through her and suddenly I felt dizziness. That is when I realized that Sookie was not breathing at all.
Shit! What’s wrong!
She was feeling euphoria, anger, lust, possessiveness and longing, all at the same time and it confused the hell out of me. How can one individual feel so many conflicting emotions all at once? No wonder she was feeling dizzy! I could not resist deeply inhaling her divine scent after so long. Gods she smelt so good! Not knowing what else to do, I tried to relax her and coax her to breathe.
I had just wanted to save her from the fall. Now I didn’t know how I was going to remove my hands from her.
But, she had been claimed by a werewolf, who was currently staking his claim, very volubly, for everyone to hear…
As furious as I was at Alcide’s crude challenge to me, I knew Sookie was his, as long as she chose him over anyone else, and he had a right to stake that claim over her. We were standing in the middle of representatives from all the supernatural communities from my states, along with members from the Supernatural Council. I wanted to fight the wolf, to wipe off his existence from the face of the Earth and claim Sookie as my own, but I could not do so without her express wish. It was against our own rules and I needed to uphold those rules. And she had walked away from me a long time ago…
Just as I was struggling with myself on letting her go, she put her small warm hand on top of mine and my hand turned off its own accord, weaving my fingers with hers. I could not even begin to admit how much her small gesture meant to me and I wanted to savor that intimate touch for as long as possible before I had to let her go. Maybe she was lessening the blow for me, the blow of letting her go, again. I pulled her back a tiny bit and leaned in to share a last half embrace with her.
I could feel resolve and determination as well as love and longing flowing through her and inferred what that may mean. She loved Alcide. I fucking hated it. But she loved him. She chose him. And I needed to walk away. She would turn any second, thank me for saving her from the fall and then turn her back to me again. It still warmed my cold dead heart that she needed to steel her resolve like that to ask me to let go. I remembered the last time that happened and the utter devastation she had in her heart after doing that. So I needed to do the right thing by her. I would not join the posturing contest that was going on and I would walk away gracefully. Not because I didn’t want to compete with the fools in line, but because Sookie didn’t want that contest to happen. It would haunt me later but I could spare her that mortification. I straightened out as I decided to let go and started to pry my hand from hers.
I expected her to straighten up and walk away. I expected her to walk right to Alcide. However, Sookie Stackhouse has been and remains the most troublesome, confusing conundrum of my undead life.
She dug her nails in my hand, so hard that she drew out a drop of my blood.
Did she really just do that?
Did she refuse to go to Alcide and held on to my hand by choice?
Did she really draw out blood from me? Did she know that in doing so she just chose me as her protector?
I knew Sookie didn’t know the fine points in supe etiquette but I didn’t have time to explain it to her now. Alcide was challenging me publically. Over Sookie…Who held on to my hand and told him to go away. If Alcide didn’t back the hell down, I would have to attack and his pack would have to defend him and then my vampires would have to attack the wolves that were attacking me. I could feel Sigebert and Wybert flanking me like a wall. Those two alone were enough for each and every wolf present. If I backed down now, it would be a show of weakness in front of the entire supernatural community from two states. More importantly, I never backed down from a challenge.
If the stupid wolf didn’t stop growling, I would kill him to prove a point to everyone. I didn’t want to do it because I knew whatever Sookie had done was not intentional and although Alcide understood the repercussions of challenging a vampire king over a mate who refused to stand with him, Sookie would never forgive herself for getting him killed by mistake.
One step to save her from falling down and I was drawn into a brewing strife between vampires and werewolves…She was so much trouble!
I needed to diffuse the situation somehow. I caught Niall’s eye and nodded to him. He came forward and politely dipped his head once before bringing his hand up for Sookie. “Would you care to get a drink with your old man great granddaughter? It really is hot in here…”
Sookie looked at me, her eyes and mind filled with confusion at Niall’s sudden invitation. I gently caressed her cheek with my fingertips and she half closed her eyes and leaned into the touch.
Sookie Stackhouse really never did the expected! But this felt good…
I smiled and nudged her towards Niall. “Go…It’s alright. Everything is alright.”
She nervously glanced at the dozen vampires standing all around us in offensive positions and almost all the werewolves stepping forward stealthily, building defenses in case things turned ugly. She seemed to understand some of the crisis that was happening around her and looked at me with worry written all over her face “What is happening Eric?”
This could go seriously wrong and she could be caught between the gore. I needed her out of there… quickly, without asking questions. I knew it was futile and I knew she would be stubborn and would surely ask her twenty questions. Still I took a chance and held both her hands in mine and pleaded with her through my eyes when I said. “Trust me. Go…”
To my utter surprise and relief, she nodded and gently squeezed my hands before stepping away from me.
And then “I trust you.”
My eyes went wide at her admission.
Still looking into my eyes, she took Niall’s hand as he pulled her safely out of the circle of my guards. I waited for her to reach at the back of the room and glanced at Tara to go on and join her. Another surprise for me there when Tara didn’t argue and silently went to stand slightly in front of Sookie.
I shifted my gaze to Alcide and let all restraint at anger fall away.
“Miss Stackhouse has the right to choose who she wants to be with. She currently chooses to stand with her people and the head of her family. Vampires have not threatened the wolves. You don’t need to stir trouble.”
Alcide maintained his stance. Tension and nervous energy spread through the room. Everyone became alert…
An older were’ stepped forward towards us, cutting through the crowd of werewolves around and I recognized him to be Colonel Flood, the new pack master of the Shreveport Were pack, to which Alcide belonged. When I met him a year back, he came across as a level headed man, world wise and war hardened. I could grow to like him over time. This was his hour to shine too. Either he would do the usual short sighted thing, support Alcide and get most of his pack killed when it came to a fight. Or he could look at the situation in its entirety and accept that there was no point in fighting over Sookie when she had clearly refused to stand with the wolves, and save the blood of his pack from being spilt at the hands of the vampires.
We nodded at each other and Flood put a hand on Alcide’s shoulder. “You will step back Alcide.”
Thank God for the few grownups in the group…
Alcide growled and grunted and kept standing there, staring at me. Flood took him by his forearm and dragged him back, slowly, as everyone watched, out of the room. A few weres took after them and the remaining ones slowly dispersed from their defensive positions. I nodded at my vampire guard and they relaxed their stance.
One down, one to go…
During the whole exchange, Bill Compton had the most amusing half constipated and half triumphant look on his face. As soon as Flood dragged Alcide out, Compton started inching towards the side of the room where Sookie stood with Niall and Tara, no doubt to gloat and stick his claim on her.
He was exasperating to the nth degree.
I saved this up for him for the last.
“Thalia, show Mr. Compton our newly refurbished guest chambers in the basement.”
Bill froze and looked at me with trepidation. “Eric?”
I raised an eyebrow at him, silently challenging him to speak one word out of line. He held his tongue. I knew he didn’t have it in him to challenge a stronger foe when he was far outnumbered. Thalia stepped forward and pushed him slightly to get him moving. Jessica started to move towards her maker but Sigebert reached out and held her by her shoulder. I saw to it that Bill cleared out of the room and then smirked at a few guests that were still staring at me. Andre glanced at me and then signaled at the band to start playing again.
Breath by small breath, the mood shifted again and everybody went back to mingling, chatting and having a good time.
Sookie was dancing a slow dance with Niall and both of them were glowing with a soft yellow light. The almost fight two hours ago notwithstanding, each and every supe looked fascinated by the two and was eyeing them surreptitiously. I could see how many vampires had their fangs down.
All evening I tried to keep my distance and went through and picked at everything Sookie had said and done in my mind. She looked at me every once in a while and I could see sadness in her eyes. I also felt sadness from her; Sadness and longing and regret.
To be honest, there was a small part of my mind that kept saying that Sookie wanted me and she opened our blocked bond again because she now felt the same things for me that she used to feel when we started the bond. But that was a very small hopeful part.
The bigger, older and more cynical part of me said that maybe she was sad because of the fight that happened over her and was regretting getting Alcide sent away. How I wished I was telepathic and could read her thoughts.
I could not risk being wrong about her and make assumptions. I would not survive unscathed if I hoped for something and then she walked away again. Even if she clung to me in front of Alcide, there was a very good chance that she had just wanted to get rid of him and I walked in to catch her at the right time.
To be fair, this time, I needed her to walk up to me and say it if she wanted us to be together. I needed her to walk that distance in her heart. I needed her to be absolutely sure about us. I wanted her to come to me when she was sure. I knew I’d be there when she was ready. But she needed to be ready for me. I couldn’t stand her conflicted feelings for me. I couldn’t take it if she told me I’d have to share her love with anyone else.
No, this time Miss Stackhouse really needed to choose and till the time she didn’t, I needed to keep my distance.
I made sure to appear engrossed with all my guests and took time to get to know each and every one present there. I made sure I sized up every supe present and since I was very good at reading everyone, except of course fairies, I collected a lot of useful details. It lasted a while. Two hours to be precise. Then Sookie decided to dance and her light started shining through. I didn’t realize I was walking towards her till I was standing two steps away from Sookie and Niall. Niall looked at me and I hope he didn’t see how hopeless I must be looking right then. In an effort to save face, I hastily asked to dance with her.
“May I cut in Niall?”
Niall looked at Sookie who seemed surprised by my sudden appearance. “Care to dance with me Miss Stackhouse?”
Her eyes lost focus for a second when she looked up at me. She turned to Niall and graciously bowed out from their dance. Niall smiled at her and nodded at me before leaving the two of us on the dance floor. Then she turned towards me and for a moment I just stood there, drinking in her sight and breathing in my fill of her mesmerizing scent wafting around us. She blushed and her lips quirked up in a small smile. I brushed my fingers over her hands on her sides and ran my hands up her arms, softly travelling up her golden skin. I lingered a moment over her upper arms, where slight bruises were already forming from being held roughly before. In that moment I regretted not killing that dog when I had the chance. She seemed to hear my thoughts as I stood rooted there and gently took hold of my left hand and placed it on her back. Then she took hold of my right hand in hers and stepped towards me in an embrace, never breaking eye contact.
She was in my arms again. The band started playing the next song and the singers started singing ‘Truly Deeply Madly’ as we began to dance to the lilting music, completely in tune with each other and completely oblivious of the others around us. In that moment, I felt her within me, truly, deeply and madly. For that moment I let go of all control, all façades, all pretenses and all past hurt. I wanted to cherish that moment with her and when she looked at me with a storm in her eyes, I knew that maybe that small hopeful part of my mind, still had its chance.