Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
I’m on my own here, so any mistakes you find are mine. Thanks for your lovely reviews, I hope you all know how much I appreciate them.
SPOV (in Eric’s body)
My mind felt rested, but Eric’s body felt agitated, probably because of the faint smell of Bill that lingered in the tiny space where I was forced to sleep. I practically jumped out of the hidey-hole, throwing the supplies back in the closet and closing the door quickly. I made my way into my bedroom. I sat down in the middle of the disheveled sheets and inhaled deeply. The scent of my body filled Eric’s nose. I closed my eyes and let the feeling of happiness wash over me. Why did his body respond like this? Even more pronounced than the happy feeling, was the growing erection inside his sweatpants. I stared at his lap in amazement. His arousal seemed to be completely involuntary. Perhaps Bill responded the same way around me…
Well, that killed anything good I was feeling, especially his erection. I had to make a note not to think about him. Not for a while anyway. I didn’t plan on ignoring what happened last night…I just didn’t want to think about what he said. Before I could stop it, the words ‘queen’s orders,’ ‘social pariah,’ ‘procure,’ and ‘inexperience’ bounced around my brain making my anger and sadness boil up again. I shook his head in an attempt to clear it, and squeezed his eyes tight to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. Thankfully, there was a clatter in the kitchen, which served as enough of a distraction.
Eric was searching around in the fridge, and when he noticed that I was with him, he smiled at me…a big wide smile.
“I’ve got a surprise for you!” Eric seemed way too excited about something, and it made me leery…and why was he wearing a bikini?
The last surprise I got was painful, so I shook his head. “Oh no. I don’t think I could take any more surprises!”
Eric insisted that I was going to like this one, and urged me to follow him. I was trying to guess what it could have been. It was obviously something in my house…maybe Eric had Bill tied up on the back porch so I could punch him again. His stomach filled with a mixture of anxiety and dread at the thought of seeing Bill again. I was so lost in thoughts of fulfilling the rage still fresh in my mind that I almost bumped into Eric when he stopped walking. No Bill…only appliances; new, shiny, tall, and expensive appliances. Eric was practically vibrating with excitement waiting for me to react.
“Eric! I can’t afford these!” I couldn’t begin to imagine how much of my money he spent. After working my job and counting my tips…he should have known I could never spend so much on a new washer and dryer, despite how much I needed them. Bills came first. My budget scrolled through my mind, adding up all the utilities, insurance, and cost of groceries. Nowhere in that list was there enough money left over for these.
“No! But I can!” Eric screamed.
Wait, what? Why would he use his money to buy me something? People didn’t give you something for nothing. Especially Eric. There was always a price. Now I owed him. Didn’t I? How could I repay him?
He brought up Dallas, and I searched my brain for a gift he gave me. The only ‘gift’ I could remember was the bullet that I sucked out of his body, which was still tucked next to my necklaces in my jewelry box. The memory stirred something in me. Something I wasn’t ready to deal with. Desire.
I stormed into the kitchen, and drank a bottle of blood as quickly as I could. My body still had the lingering scent of the sun and it was driving me wild. Eric shouted about me being ridiculous, and something about expecting me to be happy. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at him. I could see the disappointment on my face. How could I accept a gift like that? Was this some sort of sexist thing? Eric did have a tendency to be very old-fashioned.
“Because I’m a woman, and I love to do laundry? You’re a pig Eric!” I locked myself in the bathroom, and started the shower. My mind raced. Eric tried to open the door and I sighed knowing I was safe in here, at least for a few minutes. I knew the shower wouldn’t hide me for long. Eventually, the hot water would run out and I would be forced to face him.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Eric had given me a wonderful gift and I had been horribly rude. If the tables were turned, I would have been fuming mad. I made a note to thank him when I got out. I stretched his body under the stream of hot water, feeling it relax his muscles. I was lost in the feeling when Eric knocked on the door.
“Give me a minute!” I snapped, not wanting to leave the warmth.
“I have! Twenty, to be exact!” Eric responded. My voice was muffled through the door. There’s no way I was in here that long! “We need to leave!”
I was about to respond, but the idea of shouting over the noise of the shower and through a door seemed ridiculous. I got out of the shower, dried off, dressed in the same clothes I had worn yesterday, and opened the door. “Where do we need to be?” Eric was dressed in the black pantsuit I usually wore to funerals.
“You have a meeting,” Eric said. My face was the perfect representation of misery.
“A meeting?” Why would I have a meeting?
“I mean I have a meeting…” Eric said gesturing to his body. “If I could take care of it in this body, I would, but I can’t. Vampires don’t do well taking orders from humans.”
“Oh shit. You have a vampire meeting? About what?” I was grateful for his quiet heart and lack of breathing, because I am sure I would be hyperventilating.
I was going to have to talk to another vampire. Posing as Eric. Discussing vampire business. This was not going to be good.
“I’ll tell you in the car.” Eric said. “Put these on.” He pointed to the shirt and jeans laid out on my bed.
“Wait…are those the jeans I wore last night?” I eyed them suspiciously.
“Yes, but they are clean.”
“So THAT’S why you bought me a new washer and dryer! So you wouldn’t have to use my old dumpy machines again!” It all made so much sense now!
Eric just stared at me. “Believe me. I don’t plan on doing laundry again.” He looked pissed. “Just get dressed.” He turned and walked out of the room.
I had no choice but to follow him. I folded Eric’s body into the passenger seat of his corvette and waited for him to talk.
“How did you even know where to buy a new washer and dryer?” I asked, tempting him into starting a conversation.
“I talked to Sam. He told me to go to Val’s on Main, so I did.”
“You talked to Sam?” I asked.
“Yes, and before you ask, he didn’t say anything about Callisto.” Eric paused and looked at me uneasily. “I told him to hire a replacement for you.”
“You mean to tell me that you just quit my job?!” I could not believe him. What right did he have to make changes in my life?
“Yes…but don’t worry about money,” Eric added.
My initial reaction of anger slowly diffused into worry. How in the hell was I NOT supposed to worry about money? I tried to verbalize my frustration, but nothing came out.
We rode in silence for a while.
“So, when is it…the meeting I mean,” I asked, attempting to break the silence again.
“Why didn’t you mention this meeting before now?”
“Because I just found out about it,” Eric said between clenched teeth. “You think I want you to have a meeting with Andre? He’s going to eat you alive! I could lose everything…”
“Who is this Andre guy?”
Eric took a deep breath. “I need you to swear to secrecy before I tell you what I am about to tell you.”
He did not seem to be in the mood to deal with questions, so I said, “I won’t tell anyone.”
Eric looked at me solemnly for a few seconds before he began. “Every state in the United States has a royal ruling body. The state of Louisiana has a queen. Her name is Sophie-Anne Leclerq. She is one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in North America. Her progeny love her, and have been serving her for over a millennia.” I was about to ask him why that was an important detail, when Eric continued. “Andre is the most dedicated of them all…which is why she has assigned him to be Sheriff of Area One, New Orleans.” Eric paused and looked at me, he was breathing heavily.
“The queen is in New Orleans?” I asked in surprise.
“Why is Andre coming tonight?”
Eric inhaled sharply. “Because…he has been sent to investigate details of an event.”
“An event,” I repeated.
“A banishing…” Eric paused and then added, “Bill’s.”
Eric banished Bill? Did he do that for me? Was Eric in trouble? “Why would Andre care about…someone like him?”
Eric gave me a long look. “Because Bill was sent to my Area on the Queen’s orders. She wants you.”
I felt the wounds from last night opening again. Eric was confirming everything Bill told me. “You knew?” I asked, feeling betrayed all over again. Tears started to form, making crimson tracks down his cheeks.
“Yes…I swore an oath…” Eric said slowly, keeping my eyes on the road in front of us.
My sadness turned to anger as I started putting pieces together in my mind. “So this,” I said, motioning between us, “was this part of her plan too?”
“What?!” Eric turned to look at me now. He looked genuinely surprised.
“Oh don’t play innocent with me, Eric. You are all so entitled, aren’t you? Vampires take what they want, hurt who they want…”
I shook his head. “I can’t believe I fell for it…”
“Fell for what?”
“The lie. This…” I motioned again. “That you actually liked me.”
“But I…” Eric did not continue.
I squared his shoulders and looked out the window. “So why does the queen want me?” I asked trying to distract myself.
“Because of your telepathy.”
“How does she know? I mean, the people in Bon Temps talk about me being ‘different’ but no one really knows. I’ve never told anyone…” My telepathy had always made me stand out, but no one had tried to use me for it before. It hurt.
“That’s not entirely true.”
I raised his eyebrows. “So you think you know my past better than I do?” I challenged.
“Your cousin Hadley.”
“Hadley?” I felt sick as the blood in his stomach churned. When we were young, before she threw her life away, Hadley was my only friend. I confided everything in her.
“Hadley is the Queen’s favorite. She has been for some time now. So when Hadley started talking about her ‘special’ cousin, she had the Queen’s ear. Do you know how valuable your gift is? Sophie-Anne is a shrewd business woman, and she sees you as the perfect addition to her entourage.”
“I am not a piece of property!” I shouted. Eric winced as his voice echoed around the interior of the car. I was gripping his legs hard enough that they started to ache. “So what am I supposed to do? Give her my life?” I felt helpless and hopeless.
“No…” my voice was gentle. Eric touched his arm softly.
His touch calmed me, but I was too mad to admit it. “What other options do I have? I can’t run…”
“I can’t hide…”
“What can I do?”
“Be mine. If you are mine, there is no need to procure you.” Eric looked at me. “I can protect you.”
“Sophie-Anne will respect a blood bond.”
“What the hell is a blood bond…and what difference would that make? She’s the boss. She tells you she wants something, and you do it. How would you be able to protect me from her if you’re taking orders from her? Can’t she just order you to hand me over?”
Eric shook my head. “It doesn’t work like that.”
“Oh yeah? How does it work?!” I crossed his arms over his chest.
“A blood bond is a…contract. It proves dedication, loyalty, commitment.”
I scoffed. “On whose part…mine or yours?” It seemed like just another way for vampires to get humans to serve them.
Eric looked hurt. “Both.”
Well I wasn’t expecting that.
“How does it work?” If it was my only option, I needed to know more.
“We exchange blood. Three times.”
“Riiiiight…” I took an unnecessary breath. “So all I need to do is tell Andre that I am yours, and he’ll leave me alone?”
“What ‘maybe’? You said you could protect me…that she would respect a bond!”
“Yes, but we’re not actually bonded…are we?” Eric said sounding pissed off again. “First you need to convince him that you are me, otherwise my position as Sheriff is gone.”
“Why should I give a shit about protecting your precious position?” I demanded. My life was on the line, and all he could think about was his JOB? It was especially ironic since he had just walked away from mine.
“Because it’s the only thing that separates you from the Queen.” I did not like the sound of his voice. It sounded like fear.
The parking lot at Fangtasia was nearly empty. Before we left the car, Eric said, “Show strength and say as little as possible. If he gets you backed into a corner, follow my lead.” I let out a huge sigh of relief when I realized he was not going to leave my side.
As we neared the entrance I read the sign with hours of operation, stating that the bar was closed Monday nights. Well, at least we wouldn’t have to deal with fangbangers tonight on top of everything else!
Pam greeted us at the door. “Master, they’re already here!” She looked frazzled. Eric nodded and I followed suit and nodded too. What did she mean by ‘they’? I thought I was meeting with just Andre tonight. I opened my mind, found one blank spot and one live brain in Eric’s office. The thoughts came and went in flashes, like a flickering light.
Pam led the way down the hall. As we walked, I silently reminded myself to be Eric: strong and smart.
I was shocked to find a vampire sitting at Eric’s desk. He looked like he was about fifteen, and yet he radiated confidence, power, and something else that I couldn’t put my finger on. I disliked him immediately. I looked at Eric and saw his anger directed at Andre.
“Thank you Pam, that will be all.” Pam nodded and ducked out of the room. “Andre,” I said with a slight nod, “you are in my chair.”
Andre laughed and it made my skin crawl. He lifted an eyebrow at me, and gave me an approving smile. He moved gracefully, waving his hand to Eric’s chair. I took the opportunity to switch places with him with Eric hot on my heels. I passed by Andre’s human companion, a slim young man who had been disinterested in the meeting…until I walked in. He stared at Eric openly, not attempting to hide his desire. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves, and caught a hint of the same intoxicating scent that accompanied my body. Upon closer inspection, the young man was covered with bite marks in various stages of healing.
“Is your human not feeding you?” Andre asked while laughing again.
I realized Eric’s fangs had descended. “He smells delicious.”
“Would you like a taste? I would be willing to share…”
Yes!! Eric’s body screamed. “No, thank you, I have had plenty to eat.” I lied. I sat down in Eric’s chair. Eric stood next to the other human so that I could see him. Andre’s human looked dejected and flopped into a chair in the corner of the room. Eric leaned casually against the desk and Andre sat in the chair opposite me.
“Suit yourself…but then again, why would you want mine when you have your own?” He looked at my body. I wanted to gouge his eyes out.
“Shall we get down to business?” Andre spoke with a faint accent.
I saw a flash of the meeting last night. Apparently, Bill had gone straight to New Orleans to tattle on Eric. Andre and someone I assumed was Sophie-Anne, did not believe Bill’s story of his Sheriff banishing him for no reason, but knew they needed to find out what had happened so that Bill’s job could be reassigned if need be.
Andre’s human was playing with his fingernails, transmitting his memories as clearly as if I were watching a movie. I was having a difficult time trying to form my own thoughts when his were coming in so clear, so I decided to distract him by getting his attention and then giving him a fangy smile. It worked, and his brain turned into a pile of goo in a matter of seconds.
“As you are aware, the vampire you banished was sent to your Area on a very specific assignment. My Queen has sent me here for details. Bill was not forthcoming.” Andre looked disappointed.
“Hmm…Bill,” I said, finding it difficult to say his name. “Bill is no longer necessary.”
“Is that so?” Andre asked, leaning towards me. Eric tensed.
“Yes. In a matter of days, I managed to do what he could not accomplish in months! He is pathetic.” It felt so good to badmouth Bill. “He confided in me that he was not up for the task the Queen had given him, and begged me to procure her myself.” I straightened Eric’s shoulders and stared directly at Andre. “Of course…this came at a price, which he would have been sure to leave out of his complaint.”
“So…she…” Andre trailed off.
“Is right here. May I introduce you to Sookie Stackhouse.” I gestured to Eric, who was looking rather pale.
“Miss Stackhouse. I have heard wonderful things about that gift of yours.” Andre said looking at Eric like he wanted to eat him. I wanted to rip his fangs out. “My Queen will be delighted!”
“She is mine,” I said simply, staring at him again. Eric kept my mouth closed.
“Is she obedient?” Andre asked without looking at Eric. I watched Eric’s face closely and saw a quick nod.
“Very.” I jerked his head and Eric moved immediately until he was standing beside me, resting my hand on his shoulder.
“If she is in your care, then I assume we can rely on her gift when we need it.”
“For the right price,” I added boldly. I could feel Eric tense up again. “If you expect her to quit her job to work for you, then I assume she will be compensated.”
“Very shrewd, Mr. Northman.” Andre paused. “Of course. You both will be.”
“Then it is settled. Do we have any other matters to discuss?” I said, imitating Eric. I could already feel Eric and I both beginning to relax.
“What shall we do with Bill? Send him to a new Area?”
Eric dug three of my fingers into his shoulder. “Yes. Area Three,” I answered.
Andre chuckled. “You really must dislike him…I will discuss it with my Queen. Please come and visit us at the palace. She would love to meet your human.”
I nodded and stood up when he did. Andre’s human companion obediently got up from the couch, stealing glances at me as he followed Andre through the club.
Before Andre left, I rushed over to him and asked, “When you said ‘why would you want mine when you have your own,’ what did you mean? Do you mean that he is also…?”
“Part fairy? Yes. Although I cannot be certain about your human unless I taste her, but their scent is so unique…their blood is exquisite, is it not?” Andre looked at Eric and his fangs snicked out again.
I nodded Eric’s head numbly. ‘Exquisite.’ The very word Bill had used to describe feeding from me.
Andre and his human left just as I fell to the floor and began to vomit, covering the dull floor with a pool of synthetic blood.