Keeping to the sides, Sookie wandered around the ballroom as she observed the party. She smiled approvingly as she watched her staff work. The Only at Night staff had been trained well and they knew how to work a room so the guests always had what they wanted, but remained inconspicuous. Their donors were much more delicate in their interactions, enticing the vampires without offering themselves. Only at Night had managed to keep that side of their business concealed rather well, and a large part of it was due to their donors’ behavior. They didn’t walk around with “Blood Whore,” written on their heads. In fact, Sookie absolutely hated the term, and refused to let it be used as a way to describe the donors. She knew by many peoples’ definition that they were, indeed, whores, but she would never treat them as such. They offered a much needed and sought after service, and she would be damned if she’d let anyone treat them badly.
Sookie inclined her head and hid a smile as she watched one of their newest human donors discreetly lead a dark-haired vampire outside to the gazebo Only at Night had arranged for the party. The young redhead, Jessica, her mind supplied helpfully, had proven to be quite popular with both their vampire clients, and their other donors. The young woman had an innocence to her that just drew people in. In the beginning, Sookie had been quite hesitant to hire her, believing the young woman would be out of her depths, and not wanting to corrupt her, but Jessica had proven herself to be made of hard stuff. She knew what the job entailed and never shied away.
The party was in full swing when Freyda finally made her entrance. The Queen of the State was fashionably late and looking like a million dollars in a black dress, a black and white mask covered her eyes, and set off her outfit perfectly.
However, as good as the Queen looked, it was the man, the vampire, by her side who caught Sookie’s attention, and she could not take her eyes off of him. He was impeccably dressed in what had to be a custom-made suit. His mask was slightly different from the rest of the men present as it covered more of his face, which Sookie had no doubt was gorgeous. His blond hair was slicked back and Sookie would have liked nothing more than to run her fingers through it.
There was something strangely familiar about him, but Sookie couldn’t put her finger on just what. Perhaps if she could see his face, she would know, but for now, she was content to stare at him. She laughed softly as she realized she wasn’t the only one looking at him. From the looks both Pam and Willa were giving him, Sookie realized this was The Regent. The fact that he entered with Freyda should have told her that, but she was too distracted to even try and put a name by his appearance.
You’re goin’ soft, Sookie, she told herself with a shake of the head. As she worked the room, Sookie’s eyes kept wandering back to The Regent. There was just something about him that drew her in and demanded her attention. She had never felt that kind of pull before… Or had she? She wondered as she ran her eyes over him. A memory tickled at her mind, telling her that she had felt it, or at least something similar a long time ago, but it wasn’t quite the same. That was…. No, she chided herself, she wasn’t going there. Not now, and maybe not ever.
Just as her eyes were on him, his eyes were on her. He had noticed her the second he stepped in the room, only a blind man wouldn’t have. She stood apart from the rest of the women there in her sinful red dress. Oh, how he would love nothing more than to peel that dress off her. Just as the rest of the guests, a mask covered her face, but he didn’t need to see her face to know she was beautiful. He just knew it. As he watched her, he realized that this was the event planner, he had heard so much about. For the last month, whenever he spoke to Freyda, she had done nothing but sing the praises of this woman. In contrast, whenever he spoke to Pam, she had done nothing but complain about her. Pam hating someone was nothing new to him, but the extent of her complaining had taken him by surprise. From the way Pam spoke about her, he knew this woman had to be something special. Pam was nothing if not predictable when it came to the women she disliked. They were usually strong, independent women who weren’t afraid of her, and would never back down when she tried to intimidate them. After speaking to Freyda, he had heard all about Pam’s attempts to intimidate the woman, and how Pam had come off worse. He hadn’t even been introduced to the woman yet and already he found himself impressed by her. He was well aware of her reputation among the supernatural world, something his bratty child had dismissed as nonsense. Well, it seems his little hellcat in red had earned that reputation. He would’ve loved to have seen her put Pam in her place. Normally, he would have defended his child, but Pam’s laziness, jealousy, and spiteful attitude had grown tiresome to him, and he would no longer fight her battles for her, or get her out of the trouble she caused. Once he left the palace and Illinois, he intended to inform Pam of just that. He was sure she would throw a tantrum like none he had witnessed before, but he was past caring. It was time his spoiled brat grew up and stood on her own two feet. His other child had. She had only spent fifty years at his side before she went out on her own and made a name for herself. She had won a throne in battle and kept it for close to a hundred years, without calling on his help. Pam threw a tantrum if she was made to stand on her own two feet for more than a night.
“I see you have already been ensnared in her web,” Freyda said, drawing his attention away from Sookie for the first time since he had entered the party. There was a teasing quality to her tone, and he could see the sparkle in her eyes through her mask. “Would you like me to introduce you, my dear?”
“I think I can handle the introductions on my own,” Eric replied with a grin. “I have never been what you call shy.”
A musical laugh spilled from Freyda’s lips at his words, knowing no words had ever been more true. In the three hundred years they had known each other, a hundred of those being pledged, Freyda had never seen anything that indicated that Eric even knew what the word meant. She had seen him seduce countless women without shame, herself included. It had taken him all of three nights to get between her legs, not that she was complaining. She happily spread her legs for him, just as she continued. Although, unlike some of his other women, her eyes flickered over to Pam and Willa, Freyda knew sharing his bed did not mean she had a claim to him. He would give you indescribable pleasure, but you would never capture his heart. That was guarded better than The Ancient Pythoness. Although, Freyda believed if anyone would ever come close it would be the lovely Ms Stackhouse. She had a fire inside her that Freyda had only ever seen in Eric. They were cut from the same cloth.
Casting her eyes over to Pam again, Freyda wondered what she would think. The century old vampire still held onto the mistaken belief that she was the most important woman in Eric’s life; his youngest and most-favored child. His youngest maybe, but Freyda doubted Pam knew how close her maker came to turning someone just six short years ago. No, there was no way Pam knew that, because if she did, she would have thrown one of her childish tantrums. For all Pam’s claims about being Eric’s favorite, she actually knew little about him. She didn’t know about his maker who sat on the Council, she didn’t know who his other child was, all she did know was about his vampire sister, and she only knew about Nora because Eric had sent her to stay with her after he pledged to Freyda. That was one of the conditions of the pledging, something Pam still held a grudge over. No, Pam didn’t know her maker as well as she thought, and Freyda was actually looking forward to her realizing that.
“No, you’re definitely not shy, then neither is Ms Stackhouse,” Freyda said. “I believe you two will get on like a house on fire. The lady has balls of steel. Watching her work is a thing of beauty… as is watching her come apart beneath you.”
Eric grinned at her words, having already heard all about the Queen’s little tumble with the blonde beauty the night before. He had lapped up her words as she told him how she had spent an hour on her knees between Sookie’s legs. Freyda’s words had turned him on so much he had bent her over her desk and taken her hard, making her scream his name for hours.
“I hope to witness that myself before the night is over,” Eric admitted without shame. From the moment he had heard about Sookie Stackhouse from Freyda he had been captivated and wanted her. There was something about her that drew him in, a moth to a flame. He knew she wasn’t human. The Council didn’t give their backing and protection to humans, and he wondered briefly if she wasn’t some kind of Siren. Rumor had it, she had ensnared the affections and respect of some very powerful people in the Supernatural world. Most of the Southern states knew of her and the company she co-owned, and many of them had stories to tell. The respect she garnered from them was impressive, and the fact that The Council stepped outside of their normal scope and bestowed upon her their approval was something else altogether. Eric had considered contacting his maker and asking him about her, but he had no real reason to do so. He didn’t think Godric would have been too impressed if he called him up just to ask about the woman he was obsessing over but hadn’t actually met.
“I’m sure you do, Eric,” Freyda laughed. “You might have to avoid Pam and Willa first though,” she added, jerking her head toward the two women. “Neither of them has taken their eyes off you all night, and I believe Pam is trying to get your attention.”
Casting his eyes over to his youngest child, Eric let out a groan as he saw the scowl on her face. It was clear to see she was unhappy with him talking to the Queen, but then that was nothing new. Pam was unhappy with him talking to any other woman, especially if she knew he had fucked them. Her obsessive behavior was starting to remind him of Bill. Bill’s obsession with Freyda was well known throughout the palace and the state of Illinois; Eric would admit he had intentionally riled the younger vampire over the years. Tormenting Bill was one of his favorite things, and something he was going to miss. He loved the sound of Bill’s cries as he made him watch while he fucked his beloved Freyda. They were like music to his ears. As much as he hated to admit it, Pam and Bill were alike in their obsessions.
Meeting his youngest’s eyes; Eric sent a sharp rebuke through their maker/child bond, silently telling her to grow up. He shook his head as he saw her cross her arms over her chest and start to pout. He was getting more than just fed up with her behavior, and he considered asking Freyda if she would keep her in her state for a few years. The only thing that stopped him was that it wouldn’t be fair on Freyda. Pam had spent the last ninety-five in Illinois, and that was ninety-four years too many for the Queen. Freyda had invited Pam to live in the palace while she was pledged to Eric, something she wasn’t forced to do, but she had known the importance of the relationship between a maker and child, and wouldn’t do anything to undermine it. It had been Eric’s decision to send Pam away for the first five years of his pledging to Freyda. He had sent the spoiled vampire off to stay with his vampire sister as a punishment for her actions that she believed led to him pledging to Freyda. Pam had been incensed, ranting and raving for hours, but Eric hadn’t relented, and sent her to Nora with the command that she was to do anything that Nora commanded. His vampire sister had refused to put up with any of Pam’s crap, and Eric suspected on more than one occasion Nora had beaten her bloody. Knowing Pam as he did, he was sure she did something to deserve it. He had never outright asked them. Nora had been in charge of her at the time, and he had given her his full support. The only thing he told her was that she wasn’t allowed to send Pam to her final death, nor was she allowed to punish her without just reason. Eric knew he had been too soft on Pam over the years, he had spoiled her; but then, he had spoiled his eldest as well and she hadn’t given him a quarter of the trouble Pam did.
Eyeing Pam again, Eric wondered how she would take the news of his eldest child. She would find out before too long and knowing Pam she would try and make it all about her. She would react like a spoiled child. He wasn’t looking forward to that, but it was about time she learned that she wasn’t the only or most important woman in his life. He loved her as a maker, but there were times he didn’t like her very much.
“Pam needs to learn her place,” Eric replied at last, sending his youngest a disappointed look, knowing she could hear him. “I am the maker here, not her.”
“What of Ms. Burrell? “ Freyda asked, flicking her eyes over the brunette who was staring at Eric like a lovesick puppy.
Eric let out a sigh of frustration at the mention of the young woman. If there was one thing he regretted more than anything, it was bringing her to Illinois eighteen months ago. Eric had never been one to take pets in the past, but he had grown tired of donors and fangbangers, and wanted something a little different. Willa had seemed to fit that bill. She was intelligent, pretty, and willing to please. He had met her during a trip to Louisiana, and been suitably impressed with her. It had only taken him a single night to seduce her, and she had spread her legs willingly and often while he was there. When it had been time for him to leave, he had offered her the chance to go with him. He had been upfront and honest with her from the beginning, telling her what he expected, blood, sex, and companionship and what she could expect in return, great sex, a job, a place to live, and any material thing she wanted. He had never promised her his heart or his fidelity. He had made it quite clear that he wouldn’t be faithful to her, and he didn’t require her faithfulness in return. Willa had happily agreed and moved to Illinois with him. However, once she got there it was clear to Eric that she had deluded herself into believing she meant more to him than she did. She had convinced herself that they were soul mates, and would be together forever. Eric had put up with her childish dreams for close to a year, enjoying her blood and body. He had eventually grown tired of her, no longer wanting neither her blood, nor body and let her go. He had offered to send her back to Louisiana, but she had refused, choosing to stay in Illinois to be close to him so she could win him back. She had hooked up with Bill a few weeks after Eric had let her go in an attempt to make him jealous, and had spent the last six months trying to do just that. He had considered glamouring her to forget all about him, but so far she had only proven herself to be annoying and besotted. She wasn’t dangerous, so he had left her with her memories of her former master, although he had glamoured her to not actively think of their time together. She would remember him and the things they had done, good and bad, but she would never have a clear view of him. He never wanted the risk of someone else glamouring her for information about him.
“Willa is Bill’s problem now,” Eric answered, deliberately not looking at her. The last thing he wanted to do was make her think he still cared and give her false hope. As far as he was concerned, she was Bill’s responsibility now. She had willingly hooked up with him knowing what it meant. Eric knew Bill had no real regard for her, and taking Willa as a pet had been Bill’s foolish attempt to make Freyda jealous. Whatever gave him the idea that Freyda would care, Eric didn’t know. It was obvious to everyone but Bill that the Queen had no interest in the Civil War vampire. Eric had made it clear to Bill when he took Willa as a pet that he wasn’t to abuse her, and if she wanted to leave him he better allow her. Eric didn’t believe in holding pets against their wishes, and he made sure Bill knew. He might not have had any real affection for Willa himself, but he wouldn’t see her abused at the hands of another vampire.
“She is not going to like that. She still believes you two are love’s young dream,” Freyda replied teasingly.
“She’s wrong,” Eric growled. “I am definitely not young, and there was no love involved. It was just sex.”
“She will be positively heartbroken when you leave,” Freyda said. “She’ll start listening to all those sad love songs, and pine for her white knight.”
Eric arched a brow as he turned to face Freyda fully. “You are enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“As much as you enjoy it when Bill acts like a love sick puppy around me,” Freyda replied with a smile. Eric had gotten hours of entertainment out of watching Bill moon over Freyda when the younger vampire first arrived. He had never laughed as hard as he did the night Bill dressed up and recited Shakespeare’s sonnets in a bid to impress her.
“Touché,” Eric nodded.
“Speaking of Bill, he seems to be approaching Ms Stackhouse,” Freyda said, eyeing Bill as he made his way across the hall to Sookie.
“What?!” Eric growled, snapping his head around and searching out the younger vampire. His eyes narrowed in anger as he saw Bill moving closer to Sookie, and a snarl escaped his lips. The sight of Bill near her caused an unsettled feeling in his stomach, and before he knew what he was doing, he was stalking across the room toward her. From what both Freyda and Pam had told him, Bill wasn’t a fan of Sookie’s, and for reasons he couldn’t even explain to himself, Eric didn’t want Bill anywhere near her. He sent Pam a sharp rebuke through their bond as he noticed her moving to intercept him. He was in no mood to listen to her complaining.
“Ms Stackhouse,” Eric purred, his voice dripping with sex as he cut Bill off. “It is a…” he ran his eyes over her leeringly, taking her in. “pleasure to meet you at last.”
Sookie felt her breath catch in her throat as she got a closer look at the vampire she had been enamored with all night. She swore he was even more handsome up close, and she couldn’t even see his face properly yet. He had a body made for sin, and she felt like sinning. Curling her lips into a smile, Sookie let her eyes fall over him, making sure she had a good look before raising them to meet his gaze. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Sir,” Sookie replied flirtatiously, ignoring Bill, who was glaring at the pair of them… “You know who I am, and yet when it comes to you, I am in the dark.”
“Of course, how rude of me not to have introduced myself,” Eric said as he took a step toward her. “I am Eric Northman, former Regent of Illinois…” Eric grinned as he heard Bill let out a noise of displeasure. “And…” He took Sookie’s hand in his and brought it to his lips, “Future lover of yours.”
Sookie gasped as his lips brush over the back on her hand, and felt a spark spread through her body. Arousal bloomed in her belly and she stared at Eric heatedly. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt such a strong reaction from such a gentle touch. There was something about his eyes that was familiar to her, and she found herself getting lost in them. It was as if everyone and everything around them faded into the background and it was just the two of them.
“Well, former Regent,” Bill sneered, interrupting them and bringing Sookie back into the present. “I was just about to ask Sookie if she would like to dance.” Like everyone else, Bill had noticed the moment Eric entered the hall, he was at the side of his beloved Queen, so he wouldn’t have missed it. Bill had watched them from across the room and he hadn’t missed the reaction Eric had to Sookie. He could practically feel the desire rolling off the Viking as he stared at the blood bag, so Bill had decided to get to her first. He had no interest in her, and he still didn’t like her. If anything, he liked her even less after realizing she had fucked his darling Queen. The filthy whore should have kept her hands off his goddess and kept her legs shut, but he would fuck her just to fuck with the Viking. Let’s see how he likes it when I take something he wants away from him, Bill sneered silently.
Arching a brow, Sookie turned her head to look at Bill. “It’s still Ms Stackhouse to you, Bill,” she said coolly. “To answer your question, no. I don’t want to dance with you. You’ve been nothin’ but rude to me from the moment we met. I would rather wrestle a porcupine naked than dance with you. Now, if that will be all.”
Eric let out a booming laugh as Bill spluttered in indignation. He knew he was right about her. She was a hellcat.
Bill glared at her with hatred, incensed that she dared talk to him like that in front of a roomful of his peers. Meeting her gaze, he pushed his mind against hers, intending to glamour her into be more recipient to him.
Letting out a sigh of displeasure, Sookie eyed Bill with contempt as she felt him trying to glamour her. He had been warned about that, and Sookie was less than happy that he was trying it in a roomful of people. “Ya can knock that off right now,” she hissed, batting away his attempt. “I can’t be glamoured, and if ya try it again, I’ll have ya balls for earrin’s… with the Council’s permission,” she quickly added, seeing him open his mouth. “Now, why don’t ya run along like a good little gopher, and let me and Mr. Northman talk.”
“Compton, leave,” Eric growled, towering over the smaller vampire as he noticed him hesitate. He had read the contract between Illinois and Only at Night and was well aware that attempting to glamour any of them was strictly forbidden. He had to marvel at the stupidity of Bill, trying to glamour one of the owners in front of everyone. “Now!”
Bill flicked his eyes from Sookie to Eric before quickly scurrying away. He had heard that tone before and still remembered the pain he had suffered. He was in no hurry for a repeat. Besides, Eric would be gone tomorrow and he would finally be able to make the Queen his own, so he would overlook the disrespect Northman and the blood bag showed him. He would be the new Regent soon enough.
“My apologies for that, Ms Stackhouse,” Eric said, turning back to face the plucky young blonde. “Compton is an…”
“Idiot,” Sookie cut in cheekily. She smiled up at Eric, at ease in his presence. “It’s alright. I already knew that. Please, Mr. Northman, call me Sookie.”
“Only if you will call me Eric,” he replied with his panty-dropping smile.
“Okay, Eric,” Sookie said softly, staring up at him. She couldn’t explain it, but there was something very familiar about him. It was as though she knew him or something, but she couldn’t remember how.
“Well, Sookie, in the fear of being shot down as you did Bill, I must ask, would you like to dance?” Eric asked.
“I would love to,” Sookie replied, holding out her hand to him.
Eric grinned as he took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. He ignored the daggers Pam was sending to him, and the pout on Willa’s face. He had no time for their childish antics. He had a woman he didn’t even know, but desired above all others in his arms, and he wasn’t about to let her go. Pulling her closer to him, he wrapped an arm around her as he held her hand against his chest and started to sway.
As he hummed softly along with the music, a feeling of righteousness settled in his chest. A feeling he hadn’t felt in over a half a decade. Resting his cheek against the top of her head, Eric breathed in her scent and groaned. “This feels…”
“Familiar,” Sookie finished for him, lifting her head and peering up at him. “Bein’ in your arms feels familiar. It feels right,” she added in a whisper.
Eric nodded, unable to explain the feeling, but knowing it was right. Everything about her was familiar. Her voice, her body, her mouth-watering scent. The way her body fit so perfectly against his. It was as if she was made for him. He had only ever felt that way once, but that was…
“Do you trust me?” Eric asked as he stared down at her. He smiled as he saw her nod her head. “Come with me,” he added as he linked their hands together and guided her out the two large white doors.
Trust didn’t come easy to her, but she did trust him. She wasn’t sure why. It usually took months to earn her trust, and yet, in the space of a short conversation and a dance, Sookie found herself giving him her trust and following him blindly.
Taking her outside, Eric led her to the large gazebo they had set up for the party and growled at the other vampires there making them scatter quickly. Once he was sure they were alone, he guided her to a bench, silently telling her to sit down.
“From the moment I laid eyes on you tonight, I have had the unexplainable feeling that I knew you,” Eric said as he knelt down in front of her and slid between her knees.
“Me too,” Sookie admitted. “I know I know you, I just don’t know from where.”
“I do,” Eric replied. It had come to him as he held her in his arms. He knew where he knew her from. He remembered, he had never really forgotten. She was unforgettable. As he stared at her, Eric wondered if she knew how close she came to being his child six years ago. “It was six years ago,” he continued before she had a chance to ask. “I was passing through Louisiana on business, and I stopped at a vampire friendly hotel where I met a gorgeous young woman…”
Sookie gasped as the realization of who he was, how they had met came to her. Lifting her hands, she reached for his mask, needing to know if it was him. Her hands shook as they lifted the mask of his face. “Leif,” she whispered, tears springing to her eyes as they took in the vampire who had given her the courage to make a change in her life. The vampire who had set her on the path that eventually led to her creating Only at Night.
“Hello, Scarlett,” Eric replied as he pushed her mask off her face.