Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
All mistakes are my own.
The room was a scene from a horror film: blood pouring from open wounds, and people crying and holding onto their injuries. But it wasn’t a movie. It was real life. What had been a relatively nice party turned into a massacre in a split second.
Bombs will do that.
Sookie’s purse remained wedged in the couch where she’d been sitting only minutes before with Eric. Before she told everyone to hit the floor. Before she sucked a bullet out of Eric’s shoulder. And before she walked outside to look for Bill.
Screams rose from a patch of trees in the backyard. Someone was dying, slowly and painfully. She could hear his last thoughts, his regret for getting involved, and feel his sorrow for his family. Her stomach churned and her heart ached for him. Moments later, Bill sauntered toward her, rosy-cheeked.
It was too much.
Without a word to anyone, she walked out to her rental car and pulled away from the gruesome scene. The problem with being in an unfamiliar city was that she didn’t know where she was.
Sookie pulled into the well-lit parking lot of a library and got a map out of the glove box.
“Are you lost?”
Sookie screamed and clutched her chest. “Sweet Jesus, Eric, you scared me.”
He smiled as he apologized.
“What are you doing in my car?”
“I thought it best to get out of there before the police arrived. You were leaving, so I joined you.”
“You could’ve let me know.” Sookie swallowed hard. Her heart raced.
Eric looked away. “You might have said no.” He twisted his body. “The backseat is too narrow for my legs, do you mind if I join you?” He motioned to the passenger seat.
Too tired to care, she said, “Sure.”
Once Eric got seated next to her, she thrust the map into his hands. “Tell me how to get to the airport.”
Sookie scowled at him. “If you’re going to ride with me, you can be my navigator. Otherwise, hit the road.” She pointed at the door.
Reluctantly, Eric took the map. “Take a left.”
They rode in silence for a few minutes and then Eric spoke, “He didn’t even check on you. To make sure you were safe.”
“I noticed that.” Her jaw clenched.
“No shit, Sherlock.”
Eric tilted his head. “I can feel your anger. It just intensified. I’ve never experienced such a strong connection after one exchange.”
“You’re not helping the situation!” She hadn’t even thought about the fact that he’d be able to feel her moods now that she’d had his blood, no matter how miniscule the amount was.
“I saved you.”
Some of her anger dissipated. “Yes you did. I really appreciate it. Thank you for taking that bullet so I didn’t have to.”
“It would be a shame to ruin your perfect body.”
When she glanced at him he seemed to be drinking her in. “Stop looking at me like that.” Her pulse quickened. He’s not wearing a shirt. Look at the road. Don’t look at him again.
“Is that lust I can feel?”
She could hear the smile in his words. “No. Your radar must be off. I’m tired. It’s been a long night, Eric. I just want to get home.”
After another stretch of silence, Eric said, “I think you should stay with me. Just to be safe.”
“Safe from what? From who?” She shook her head.
“There are bad people in the world. You saw that tonight.”
“Yes, and I also saw my boyfriend do bad things. You have no room to talk.”
“Am I your boyfriend?” Eric’s eyebrows arched.
“No. I meant vampires. As a vampire, you have no room to talk about good and bad. I’m sure you’ve done plenty of bad things in your life.”
He nodded. “Oh yes,” he said, and then he added, “and plenty of good.”
She didn’t want to know. Luckily, signs for the airport started popping up overhead. She followed the arrows for rental car return, parked the car and got out. She tossed the keys on the seat since she didn’t have a better idea about what to do with the car Stan had provided for her.
Eric followed her through the parking structure, his pale skin rippling as he moved to his full height.
She swallowed hard. “You need a shirt.”
He looked down. “Do I?”
Sookie squeezed her eyes shut and nodded. “Yes.”
Eric shrugged, but once they got inside, he walked straight into one of the stores and bought a T-shirt. It had the words, DO IT IN DALLAS printed across the front. “Better?”
She was too tired to laugh. Leave it to Eric to find the only T-shirt with a sexual innuendo on it. “Not really.”
He pulled it over his head and smoothed it in place. The material stretched over the sculpted plane of his chest and strained across his biceps.
“Didn’t they have your size?” Skin-tight didn’t begin to explain how it hugged his body.
“It looks good to me.” He gave her a dazzling smile.
They walked up to the ticket counter together, but Eric spoke first. “Two tickets to Shreveport. First class.”
The woman behind the desk smiled at him and typed quickly. She thought the shirt looked good on him too. “We have a flight that leaves in an hour. Terminal B, Gate 13.”
Sookie nudged him. “I need to get back to Bon Temps, not Shreveport.”
Eric pulled his wallet out. “I’ll drive you.”
“Don’t you need to fly on Anubis Air?” Sookie whispered, desperately clinging to any reason why they shouldn’t fly together.
The woman looked up at him. “Sir?”
Eric shook his head. “We’ll be home well before sunrise.”
The woman swiped his credit card and after another minute handed him their tickets.
“I could’ve paid for my ticket.” Not first class, but still.
“That’s not the point.” Eric offered his arm. It would’ve been rude not to take it, so Sookie wrapped her arm around his and they walked to the terminal together. By the time they got to their gate, boarding had already begun. Eric escorted her onto the plane and into the first class section. It was the first time she’d been in front of the blue curtain.
Sookie sank into the wide chair and sighed. She was beyond tired, but couldn’t seem to get comfortable no matter how much she tried. She couldn’t lean her chair back until after takeoff.
As the plane finished loading, Eric leaned toward Sookie and said, “You can rest your head on me, if you like.” He patted his broad chest gently and lifted the armrest between their seats.
Too exhausted to worry about how it might look or what Eric might think, she leaned against him and closed her eyes.
Mmm, dreams of Eric. On to Stay: Chapter 2