Eric stared at the exterior of the bar. Everything told him Sookie was inside, he could feel it deep down inside. For all his searching, he was at a loss at what to do, and he was dismayed to realize he was actually feeling nervous. Eric chuckled at the notion; only Sookie could make him nervous.
Straightening his shoulders, he swallowed down his nerves and put on the face of the cocky, confident King he was. Striding forward, he entered the bar, smirking at the heated looks he received; it didn’t matter where he went, he always got the same reaction. He could feel Pam at his back observing all the people inside the bar. The scent of alcohol, sweat, and sex assaulted his sensitive nose, making him sneer. It was a scent he was familiar with, as he used to smell it almost nightly at Fangtasia.
A flash of blonde hair drew Eric’s attention to a table at the back of the bar, and he felt his feet push him forward; despite the many blondes in the bar that night, Eric knew this was the one he was looking for, the one that had haunted him for so long. Right then Eric was glad he didn’t need to breathe; he knew if he did, it would be caught in his throat. His body had the same reaction to her as it always did: it ached to touch her. Everything faded away as he moved nearer – the noise, the scents, the people around him, Pam – all ceased to exist as his eyes fixed on the blonde beauty in the strapless red dress. If his heart still beat, it would have been pounding loudly in his chest as he reached her table. As he stared down at her, the years that separated them slipped away, and he didn’t even try to hide his smile.
“Hello, Lover,” he greeted.
“Hello, Eric,” Sookie replied her tone playful.
“You don’t seem surprised to see me,” Eric remarked as he let his eyes fall over her. Gods, she’s stunning.
“Should I be?” Sookie asked.
“It has been a while,” Eric said.
“Twelve years, eleven months, and twenty-four days. But who’s counting?” Sookie replied before flicking her eyes to the blonde standing beside him. “Hello, Pam.”
“Sookie,” Pam greeted.
“You are looking well,” Eric said. “Are you?”
“I’m great,” Sookie drawled. “I’d ask how you were, but you’re vampires. You don’t have varying states of health.”
Eric and Pam stared at Sookie as she stared back at them unflinchingly, all of them at a loss at what to say. Tension built between the three of them until it started to seep into those around them. Electricity crackled in the air, making the crowd rowdier than usual.
“This is your bar,” Pam said suddenly, breaking the silence.
“How long have you owned it?” Pam asked.
“Nearly four years,” Sookie answered.
“You have lived here for four years,” Eric said.
“Just over five.”
Eric and Pam exchanged a look, both of them thinking the same thing: if Sookie had been living in the same place for over five years, why was it so hard to find her?
“You were a hard lady to find, Sookie,” Pam said, putting a voice to her thoughts.
“Evidently not that hard, cause here you are,” Sookie replied, sweeping her eyes over them both. “Why are you here? No…wait,” she held up her hand, letting out a deep breath as she stood up. “I have a feeling this is a conversation that shouldn’t be heard by just anyone. Follow me.”
Sookie didn’t bother looking back until she reached her office. Throwing the door open, she strolled in, smirking over her shoulder at Eric and Pam who were right on her heels.
Eric let his eyes flick over the office as he entered, taking in the décor that wasn’t anything like the things he remembered Sookie liking. There was no warmth to the office, no personal touches; there wasn’t anything that told him this was Sookie’s office except for her scent. He ignored the other scents he could smell, not wanting to think about why the office smelled like sex. As he looked around, he realized the office was quite like his old office at Fangtasia and he wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was it just a coincidence, or had Sookie done it deliberately? His eyes widened as they were drawn to a man tied and gagged in the corner.
“I take it he’s yours?” Sookie said, smirking as she sat down behind her desk.
“How…” Eric started.
“Word of advice,” Sookie cut in. “If you’re gonna send someone to look for and spy on me, make sure it’s someone whose mind I can’t read.”
“That’s why you weren’t surprised to see me,” Eric mused. “You knew I was coming.”
“Little surprises me these days,” Sookie replied truthfully. “But, yeah, I knew he was reporting to you.”
“Then why did you do that?” Pam asked, pointing in Marcus’ direction, but making no move to untie him.
“Because, one, I don’t like being spied on. I never have,” Sookie answered. “And two, you weren’t the only one he was reporting to.”
“What?” Eric growled. “Who?”
“Well, I’ve never met her, but from his thoughts. I’d take a guess and say it’s your wife.”
“Unless you’ve married someone else as well. Yeah, her,” Sookie said. “Tall, brunette, and a bitch.”
“Sounds like Freyda,” Pam said with a smirk.
“You betrayed me,” Eric growled, advancing on Marcus, who cowered in the corner. “Why?”
“For money,” Sookie supplied, knowing Eric was really asking her. “The ‘missus’ paid him quite handsomely for the information. Oh, and then she fucked him. Something Pam apparently wasn’t willing to do, but the wife was more than happy to.”
“He double crossed me for money and sex?”
“You seem surprised, Eric,” Sookie said. “He’s a man, he thinks with his dick.”
“Sookie,” Eric chided, not liking her crude language.
“Have you switched teams, Sookie?” Pam asked, enjoying her new attitude to the opposite sex.
“Sorry to disappoint you Pam, but no. I still like men.”
“Shame,” Pam pouted.
“Pam,” Eric growled in warning, eying his child before turning his attention back to Sookie. “Has he reported your whereabouts to Freyda?”
“He told Pam and some other woman I was here; it wasn’t her, but she is definitely connected to her.”
“How do you know? Did he say the name of the other woman?” Eric asked.
“I know because I saw them together in his head. Your wife ordered the other woman to suck him off,” Sookie replied distastefully, “but they never spoke her name. She only ever referred to her as whore.”
Marietta, Eric realized.
“How did Freyda even know about him?” Pam asked suddenly. “We kept the search for you very quiet. Few people knew about it.”
“Obviously not quiet enough,” Sookie snorted.
“How she found out, we will find out eventually, but at the moment we have more pressing matters to worry about,” Eric said. “If Freyda knows Sookie is here, it stands to reason that she will soon be on her way here.”
“So that’s why you’re here,” Sookie said. “Because of her.”
“Because you are in danger,” Eric countered.
“When ain’t I in danger,” Sookie scoffed. “My whole life is just one great danger race. Who’s gonna attack the poor telepath next. So tell me, why am I in danger this time, Eric? What does she want?”
“She wants to hurt me,” Eric explained. “She is targeting you to get back at me.”
“I think she’s twelve years too late for that to work,” Sookie whispered bitterly.
“Sookie…” Eric began.
“So what did you do? No…you know what, don’t tell me, I don’t care,” Sookie said cutting him off. She let out a sigh of frustration. “This is great: you’re back in my life all of five minutes and it’s already gone to shit.”
“Sookie you must know I didn’t want this. I didn’t want for her to seek you out,” Eric said troubled by her words. “I wanted you to have a good life, free from danger.”
“Yeah, but we don’t always get what we want, do we? I learned that a long time ago,” Sookie replied humorlessly. “So, what… You two decided to fly halfway around the world to protect me. Cause if that’s the case it was a wasted trip. I don’t need your protection.”
“Sookie, I don’t think you understand how dangerous Freyda is,” Eric said.
“She’s insane and has a deep-seated hatred for you,” Pam added. “She’s crazy. You’ve never dealt with someone like her before Sookie.”
“Cause Neave and Lochlan were nice and sane,” Sookie scoffed. “I understand how dangerous she is, she’s a vampire Queen, for Christ’s sake; you don’t get to be that by organizing tea parties and midnight trips to the museum. I’m not underestimating her. I just don’t need your protection.”
“Sookie, you are being foolish,” Eric said, his anger growing at her cavalier attitude. He had forgotten how stubborn she could be.
“Why? Because I won’t hide behind you like a damsel in distress?”
“She will kill you!” Eric shouted.
“I think she’ll find I’m not that easy to kill; no one’s managed it yet and lord knows plenty have tried.” Sookie replied, deceptively calm. “Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
“Are you really willing to risk your life, instead of accepting my help?” Eric asked. “Are you really that stubborn?”
“I’m not risking my life,” Sookie answered. “A lot’s changed in the years we’ve been apart, Eric. I’m not as defenseless as I used to be.”
“Maybe not, but you are not strong enough to take on a two hundred year old vampire Queen.”
“How do you know that?” Sookie asked. “You don’t know me anymore or what I’m capable of. Do you think you’re the first person to find me? You think she’s the first person to hunt me down with the intention of hurting me in the last decade? You’re not, she’s not. I’ve survived a lot in the last twelve years.”
“Who found you?” Eric growled, his eyes boring into hers.
“Vampires, fairies, take your pick,” Sookie replied dismissively.
“What did they do to you? Did they hurt you?” Eric asked. “Where are they now?”
“Dead,” Sookie answered emotionlessly. “Met the true death, dead. Gone on to the Summerlands, dead.”
“What did they do to you?” Eric asked again, not missing that she hadn’t answered him.
“None of your business,” Sookie replied.
“Sookie,” Eric whispered.
“No, Eric, just no,” Sookie spat, her voice cracking slightly as she remembered the horrors she had faced. “If you wanna know so bad, use your imagination, but I’m not telling you.”
Staring at her, Eric realized she wouldn’t tell him regardless of how hard he pushed. Knowing that she had suffered over the years caused him blinding pain. He felt a heaviness settle over his chest, and he cursed Appius and Freyda again. He should have been with her, not playing stupid games with a woman he despised.
“Fine, I’ll let it go for now,” he said. “But it doesn’t change the fact that you are in danger. We know Freyda is after you and knows where you are, but we don’t know when she will attack. We can move you somewhere safe while we come up with a plan. You should go and pack a bag.”
“I’m not leaving,” Sookie said stubbornly.
“No. This is my home,” Sookie said uncompromisingly. “I’m not being run off by some deluded vampire Queen, just because she’s pissed at you. I’ve had to leave one home because of all of you, I’m not leaving another.”
“You had to leave for your own safety,” Pam said joining the conversation. “You were in danger.” She had been listening to Eric and Sookie go back and forth, and she had had enough. She wouldn’t allow Sookie to put her Maker in danger just because she was stubborn.
“And why was I in danger, Pam?” Sookie asked, refusing to be intimidated by her old friend. “Because of de Castro, because he wanted his own telepathic pet. So yeah, I left to keep myself safe, but then that didn’t work out too well for me, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
“You’re blaming us for that?” Pam asked incredulously.
“No, not at all,” Sookie replied. “I’m past the blame game now. Life is what it is. I can’t change the past.”
“You are still incredibly stubborn,” Eric said.
“And you’re as high-handed as ever,” Sookie retorted. “You turn up here unannounced, tell me I’m in danger ‘cause your wife’s a raging bitch, and expect me to drop everything and run off with you. That shit didn’t wash thirteen years ago and it doesn’t now.”
“And we all remember how well it turned out last time you refused to listen to me,” Eric growled. “You ended up nearly dying, and others did die.”
“You bastard,” Sookie spat as she stood up. Walking around her desk, she stopped in front of him, her fingers itching to slap him.
“Sookie…” Eric started.
“No,” Sookie said, pulling away as Eric reached for her. “Don’t touch me. You think I’ve forgotten that? You think I don’t feel guilty that Tray, Claudine, and Clancy are dead because of me? I haven’t forgotten them, and I never will. Claudine was pregnant for God’s sake, so not only did I get her killed, I got her unborn baby killed too.”
“Sookie, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” Eric said backing up. “I know you haven’t forgotten, I shouldn’t have said it. I was…”
“Speaking the truth,” Pam interrupted.
“Pam!” Eric shouted, rounding on his child.
“No, Eric. She needs to hear it,” Pam said, glaring at Sookie. She had missed her friend greatly, but she wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything anymore. She needed to know that her actions and decisions had consequences. She wouldn’t let her put Eric in or herself in danger, just because she was still stubborn and had yet to grow up.
“I don’t need to hear it, Pam. I lived it,” Sookie replied, refusing to back down. “I know my refusal to go with Eric all those years ago got Tray killed, Claudine and Clancy too. I don’t need either or you to remind me of that. I’ve never forgotten it.”
“And here you are doing the exact same thing all over again,” Pam said.
“Fuck you,” Sookie spat, taking Pam by surprise. “You haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. You don’t know me anymore. I’m not the same naïve little girl you once knew. A lot’s changed since we last saw each other. I’ve changed. Don’t judge me on the person I used to be; I’m not her anymore. The Sookie you knew is gone; she’s dead. She doesn’t exist anymore.”
Something in Sookie’s tone caused both Eric and Pam to pause and take a step back. Looking at her, Eric wasn’t sure he liked what looked back, gone was the innocence and wonder in her eyes and in its place was a coldness he didn’t like one bit. There was a hardness to her now that Eric didn’t understand; as he looked at her, he realized she was right. He didn’t know her anymore and he hated it. He wanted to know her, to know everything about her. He wasn’t sure what to make of this new Sookie, and it pained him to admit it. As he let his eyes fall over her again, he realized in many ways she reminded him of a vampire: the coldness in her eyes, the sense of detachment she had when she looked at those around her. If he hadn’t heard her heartbeat and seen her tanned skin, he would have sworn she was a vampire.
“What happened to you?” he asked suddenly.
“I grew up,” Sookie replied.
“Apparently not enough,” Pam snarked.
“I’ll admit I still have some growing to do, I’m only forty. I mean you’re a few hundred years old and you still act like a spoilt, entitled brat,” Sookie retorted.
“I’m not a…”
“Yeah, you are, Pam,” Sookie interrupted. “You can be selfish and cruel, but we’re supposed to accept that of you cause you’re a vampire, so the rules don’t apply to you. Well, they do now. I’m not putting up with your shit. Yeah, I’m stubborn and impulsive; not great attributes to have, but they’re mine and I own them. So own yours.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Pam growled.
“Nothing’s wrong with me. I’m just…” Sookie trailed off a far away look entering her eye, and in that moment they could see the weight of the last twelve years reflected on her face. “Nothing,” she repeated snapping back into the now, “now, if that’s all.”
“You know that’s not all,” Eric snarled, “I’m not leaving you… unprotected,” he added after a pause.
“You’ll have to eventually, ‘cause I’m not going anywhere, but you’ll have to soon,” Sookie said, seeing the puzzled look on his face she smiled bitterly. “By my reckoning you’ve only got about another six days until you’ve got to fuck your wife again. Unless you’re planning on celebrating your anniversary here.”
“I have never celebrated that day. I hate it and all it means,” Eric said firmly, staring into her eyes, silently pleading with her to understand what he meant.
Sookie found herself caught in his gaze, unable to look away. She could feel herself drowning in his eyes like she had so many times before, all the pain of the last twelve years drifting away. Tears pooled in her eyes as they silently communicated all what they couldn’t put into words. She could feel her defenses start to crumble as she let him back in.
“Here we go again,” Pam groaned, breaking them out the trance they were in.
Eric watched in horror as Sookie’s defenses snapped back into place and she once again locked him out. In that second he could have killed his child. He glared at Pam, holding back none of his anger. Pam recoiled from his gaze as his anger slammed into her through their bond.
“Why are you even here?” Sookie asked, directing the question to Pam. She schooled her features, hiding what she was feeling, unaware that Eric could feel it as well.
“We told you…”
“Yeah, because I’m in danger,” Sookie said. “But, that’s why he’s here. So did you just decide to tag along for shits and giggles?”
“Of course not,” Pam said offended.
“I don’t suppose it matters. Like I said: I don’t need your help. So you can leave.”
“Pam, leave,” Eric ordered, flicking his eyes towards her.
“Eric,” Pam said, hurt coloring her tone.
“Go back to the hotel and get yourself a donor,” Eric said softening his tone. “Let me speak to Sookie alone.”
“Yes, Master,” Pam replied.
“Pam,” he called out and waited for her to face him. “Take him with you,” he pointed to Marcus. “Find out everything he told Freyda.”
“Yes, Master,” Pam repeated, making Eric groan as he watched her pick Marcus up.
“I’m going to pay for that later,” Eric said as Pam walked out the door.
“You don’t have to,” Sookie said as she sat down behind her desk again, putting some distance between them. “You can leave with her.”
“I am not leaving.”
“You will eventually. I mean, even if you didn’t have to go and fuck your wife. You’ve still got a kingdom to run,” Sookie let out a humorless laugh as a look of shock spread over Eric face. “What, wasn’t I supposed to know about that?”
“Do I know,” Sookie finished for him. “You’d be surprised at what I know these days. I know you’re King of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Nevada. I know you took de Castro’s head in a bloody coup about ten months after I left. And I also know that if you’d have done if before you married her, you could have annulled the contract.”
Eric could hear the bitterness in her voice, the pain in the bond told him she was hurting despite how she was acting. He could feel the ache in her chest as she spat the words at him, “Sookie, you can’t think I waited on purpose.” His eyes widened as he realized that was exactly what she thought. “I didn’t…”
“It doesn’t matter what I think now,” Sookie said with a shrug.
“It does,” Eric said firmly. “I didn’t wait until I was married to Freyda to kill him. I didn’t even think about it until after the ceremony. I didn’t kill de Castro because I wanted to become King.”
“So that was just a bonus.”
“I don’t want to be King, I never did. I can’t wait for the day I can give up my throne.”
“So why are you King, Eric?” Sookie asked.
“Because of you,” Eric answered truthfully.
“Me,” Sookie whispered.
“I killed de Castro because I knew as long as he was still alive, he would be a threat to you,” Eric told her. “I would not let him get his hands on you. I took the throne to keep you safe.”
“But I’m not safe, Eric,” Sookie replied tiredly. “I never have been.”
“And I am sorry for that.”
“I don’t want your apologies, Eric. I just want…” Sookie trailed, her voice filled with suppressed pain.
“What to you want, Sookie?” Eric asked, his tone soft and low, almost as if he was scared he would spook her if he spoke too loud.
“It doesn’t matter what I want,” Sookie said. “I learned a long time ago that I can’t have what I want. So I just make do with what I’ve got.”
“You shouldn’t have to make do,” Eric told her honestly. “I tried to find you,” he said suddenly changing the subject. “After I killed de Castro. I wanted to tell you it was safe for you to return to Bon Temps, but I couldn’t find you. I tracked you as far as London and then the trail went cold.”
“You should have asked Bill,” Sookie said.
“Compton,” Eric spat. “He found you?”
“Yeah, didn’t he tell you?”
“No, he claimed he didn’t know where you were, that he couldn’t find you,” Eric replied angrily.
“Bill lied? Well, that’s a surprise,” Sookie snorted.
“I will kill him,” Eric threatened, anger boiling in his blood. He had believed Bill when he said he didn’t know where Sookie was and couldn’t find her. The knowledge that he had found her and said nothing caused blinding rage to build up in him. From the little she had said, Eric suspected Sookie had suffered greatly, and if his suspicions to what extent were proven to be correct, Eric would make Bill pay. While he might not have been able to be with her, he could have made sure she was safe and secure. “When did he find you?”
“The first time he found me would have been about fourteen months after I left Bon Temps.”
“First time?” Eric asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, I was living in Manchester at the time, working in a bar when Bill turned up one night. He gave me his usual spiel about how he loved me and how I wasn’t safe on my own and how he would protect me.”
“You didn’t believe him?”
“I rarely believe what Bill says,” Sookie replied, “not that he ever told me much. At that point he didn’t even tell me de Castro was dead. He led me to believe he was still alive – or undead, rather – and was still after me. He never said it outright, but he certainly implied it.”
“I will kill him,” Eric repeated his earlier threat. He always knew Bill was selfish, all vampires were to some degree, but allowing Sookie to believe de Castro was still among the undead and after her just to cement himself back in her life was low even for him. “And how did he plan on protecting you?” he already had an idea on Bill’s plan, he just needed Sookie to confirm it, so he knew how bad he was going to hurt Bill.
“He strongly suggested I form a blood bond with him,” Sookie answered.
“Mmm, more like tried to frighten me into it,” Sookie admitted. “He kept reminding me how much danger I was in and how I’d been hurt in the past. He gave me the old, by vampire law, no one would be able to touch me and I’d be safe. I reminded him that vampires rarely follow their own rules; Victor and de Castro were proof of that. He wasn’t happy when I refused and when he tried to force the issue, I told him you were the only vampire I would ever bond to. He didn’t like that one bit.”
“Did he hurt you?” Eric asked. If he had, Eric wouldn’t just punish him, he’d send him to meet the true death.
“No. Not physically, at least,” Sookie replied, sadness creeping into her voice. “But he took great pleasure in telling me about you, how you were back to your old ways and fucking everything in sight. He was almost giddy when he told me you were taking four or five different women a night.”
“A vampire, I know,” Sookie finished dismissively. It wasn’t the first time she heard that argument and frankly she thought it was a cop-out. “Fucking and feeding is hardwired into your very being. I didn’t expect you to remain celibate. God knows I haven’t.”
“You have been with others?” Eric growled.
“More than I care to remember,” Sookie answered truthfully, she bit back a crack about not being able to blame her actions on being a vampire, “but that’s not really any of your business. Just like how many you’ve fucked is none of mine.”
Knowing others had touched Sookie drove Eric crazy, he could see them in his head: nameless, faceless men touching, kissing her, making love to her, holding her and he hated it. But he knew she spoke the truth: it wasn’t any of his business. He had no right to expect her to deny the touch of another, especially when he hadn’t. He had certainly taken his fair share of women over the years.
“You didn’t bond with Compton?” he asked hoarsely.
“No, I told him straight I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take his blood or give him mine.”
“What happened next?”
“Bill did his usual thing and ignored me,” Sookie replied bitterly. “He said we’d talk about bonding later, after I finished work and had a chance to think about it.”
“Did you speak to him later?”
“Nope. Well, not for another year anyway,” Sookie said, smiling slightly. “As soon as Bill left, I quit my job, went back to the place where I was staying, packed a bag, and got the first flight I could out of the country.”
“Where did you go?” Eric asked.
“Spain. I spent about three months there topping up my tan before moving on.”
“When did Bill find you next?”
“It was almost a year later,” Sookie remembered. “I was living just outside of Paris, working in a little café when he turned up again. He was angry that I had taken off like I had. He’d been furious, accusing me of being childish and running away from my problems.” Sookie chuckled, “He didn’t like it when I told him he was the only problem I was running away from. I think that’s when he started to realize I wasn’t going back to him, and that I wouldn’t bond with him. He didn’t give up trying, though. And he hated it when he realized I was still in…” Sookie trailed off closing her eyes, not wanting to finish that sentence. Shaking away the thoughts she didn’t want to dwell on, she opened her eyes. “He couldn’t accept that I wasn’t in love with him anymore, or didn’t want to. He called me a fool, said I was being stupid, and then he dropped the little bombshell about you being King.”
“I didn’t believe him at first,” Sookie said, talking over him. “I mean I knew you never wanted to be King, so he had to be lying. But I soon realized he wasn’t. He went to great pains to tell me you were King of all three states and aligned with Oklahoma, and then he told me all about how if you’d taken the throne before you pledged to Oklahoma, you could’ve annulled the contract. You wouldn’t believe how happy he was to drop that little bombshell. I think it was his revenge for you making him tell me about the real reason he came to Bon Temps. It was just a shame you weren’t there to witness it.”
“Sookie, I swear. I didn’t wait on purpose,” Eric said. “I didn’t even think about it until after the ceremony. If I had realized it sooner I would have killed him, I swear. And Compton lied about one thing.”
“Just one, what’s that?” Sookie asked uncaring.
“I am not aligned with Oklahoma,” Eric said firmly.
“But you’re married.”
“I pledged to her before I took the crown. It wasn’t a royal marriage like Sophie-Anne and Threadgill, or Russell and Bartlett Crowe. We weren’t marrying to align our states. I had no power when I was forced to marry her, and after I became King, I refused to align my states with her. She is not my Queen – not in Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, or Oklahoma.”
“Can you even do that?”
“I’m King, I can do anything I want,” Eric said arrogantly. “Freyda will never be my Queen, Sookie, never.”
“No, she’s not your Queen, she’s just your wife,” Sookie replied sadly.
“I wish I could change that,” Eric told her truthfully.
“But you can’t. I know that, I accepted it a long time ago.”
“I didn’t have much choice, Eric,” Sookie replied. “You married her; I had to.”
There wasn’t a lot Eric could say to that, she was right. She didn’t have a choice he had married her. It might not have been his choice, but he had done it. Sitting across from Sookie, Eric called himself a fool, he should have been smarter and killed de Castro after they had dealt with Victor. He should have killed Freyda when she demanded the contract be honored. He could have claimed Oklahoma as a spoil of combat, much like de Castro had done when he killed Sophie-Anne. He might have had to face trial, but it would have been worth it if it meant he could have stayed with Sookie.
“What happened next with Bill?” he asked, returning to his earlier topic.
“Then he finished telling me how childish I was, and all about your new position, and trying to get me to bond with him again. I made it very clear that I wouldn’t ever go back to him, that I didn’t trust him, and then I told him when it came to the threats I faced he wasn’t capable of protecting me, he never had been. I reminded him of all the danger I got into when we were together and how it was you who always protected me, not him. I finally told him to leave me alone.”
“Did he listen?”
“Does he ever?” Sookie huffed. “Bill had set himself up in the role of a white knight and nothing I said was gonna change that. He couldn’t understand – didn’t want to understand – that I didn’t want a white knight, and if I did he wouldn’t be it. Anyway, when I realized he wasn’t gonna leave me alone, I did what I do best…I ran again. I was gone before he even rose the next night. You’d have thought he’d have learnt that lesson the last time.”
“What finally made him leave you alone?” Eric asked, recalling the time when Bill stopped looking for her. It would have been almost nine years ago, he had returned to Louisiana after one of his searches more dejected than ever. He never mentioned why, but after that he never searched for her again. In fact, he rarely left the state these days.
“He didn’t like what he found the next time he found me,” Sookie replied.
“What did he find?” Eric asked, unsure if he wanted to know himself.
“Your husband,” Eric said, scarcely believing what he heard. He had to have misheard her. She couldn’t be married, not his Sookie. His eyes flicked down to her hand, searching for a ring. He felt the tightness in his chest loosen when he didn’t see one, but he reminded himself that didn’t mean anything. She had never worn a ring when they were married, not that he had given her one. “You are married.”
“I was,” Sookie told him.
“Was,” Eric repeated. “You are not anymore?”
Eric couldn’t quite hide the joy he felt at hearing that she was no longer married. He might have told her he wanted her to be happy, but he realized he only wanted her to be happy with him. He knew it was selfish, but he couldn’t help it. Despite everything that had happened, he still considered Sookie his wife and hearing that she had married another caused him pain.
“We got divorced,” Sookie deadpanned.
Eric stared at Sookie, unsure what to make of her new attitude. She was coming across quite hostile, defensive, and sarcastic, and not for the first time he wondered what had happened to her.
“What happened?” Eric repeated.
“History repeated itself.”
“What does that mean?” Eric asked, thinking over what he knew about her past. He briefly wondered if her ex-husband had been sent to procure her like Bill had.
“He left me for another woman.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I’m sorry you were hurt,” Eric told her truthfully. “Whether you believe me or not, I have never wanted to see you hurt.”
“I believe you,” Sookie whispered. “But it doesn’t matter now, and it was for the best.”
“Your hus…band,” Eric gritted out the word, “cheating on you was for the best?”
“Yes. I mean it hurt at the time, but once I got some distance from it, I realized it was for the best. I wasn’t much of a wife. I tried, but my heart just wasn’t in it.”
“Did you love him?” Eric asked, hating himself for wanting to know.
“I married him.”
“That isn’t an answer.”
“I thought I did. I tried to…” Sookie paused as she let out a breath. “But, no. I didn’t love him. Not the way he deserved to be loved. I couldn’t.”
“Then why did you marry him?”
“Because I was lonely, because he loved me, because for the first time since I left Bon Temps I was happy…well, content. Stefan made me laugh and it’d been a long time since I last laughed.”
“How long were you married?”
“Thirteen months. I’m surprised it lasted that long though. I knew I’d made a mistake a few months in, and if he’s honest, so did Stefan. He just wanted it to work so bad.”
“He was human?” Eric asked.
“Mostly,” Sookie answered, shrugging. Seeing Eric’s curious look, she said, “He was one-eighth demon on his mother’s side. It wasn’t enough for him to get any of their traits, but enough that I couldn’t hear his thoughts.”
“Did he know about you?”
“That I was a telepath? Yeah, he knew. I didn’t have much choice but to tell him after Bill showed up.”
“You didn’t tell him before?”
“No. It was terrible of me wasn’t it?” Sookie snorted. “After all the crap I gave you about hiding stuff from me, I went and did the exact same thing. He knew I wasn’t completely human, that I was one-eighth fairy, but I didn’t tell him what I could do. It caused quite a few arguments after he found out. I told him I couldn’t hear him, but he didn’t believe me. Of course it only got worse when I told him about everything else, about my involvement with vampires, about you,” Sookie chuckled lightly. “He really didn’t like you.”
“What did you tell him?” Eric asked, not caring that her ex-husband didn’t like him. Eric hadn’t met him and he didn’t like him either.
“Everything. I was completely honest with him, and he hated it,” Sookie said. “He wasn’t prejudiced against vampires, he just didn’t like knowing how much I loved you. I think he knew that given the chance, I would’ve been with you. He couldn’t accept being second best, and he shouldn’t have. He deserved someone to love him completely, to put him first, and that wasn’t me. I couldn’t do it.”
“How did you find out about the other woman if you couldn’t read this mind?” Eric asked.
“I walked in on him fucking her,” Sookie replied bluntly. “She was a secretary at the place he worked. He was working late one night and I decided to take him some dinner, I was trying to be the good little wife, when I walked in on them. He had her bent over his desk. He actually tried the, ‘this is not what it looks like’ crap. It might have been more believable if he wasn’t still inside her when he said it. If I hadn’t believed my own eyes, a quick dip into her head confirmed it was exactly what it looked like, and it had been going on for over five months. He had even had her in our house, our bed. I was furious; I was lucky I wasn’t arrested, as I hit them both. I couldn’t help myself. I packed my bags and filed for divorce the next day. Funny thing is, once I calmed down I felt more humiliated than hurt.”
“What happened to your ex-husband and his whore?”
“He moved her in with him a week later,” Sookie said, shrugging like it was no big thing. “I think they lasted about four months before he realized what I knew all along: she was a gold-digging whore and was only with him for his money.”
“And there has been no one since then?” Eric asked.
“There have been many someones since then, just none that meant anything.”
Eric felt a stab of pain in his chest as he heard that. He recalled a conversation they had long ago when she told him she didn’t like casual sex; she needed the connection. Eric was brought back to his earlier thought. She was acting like a vampire in many ways and Eric wasn’t sure he liked it. He always thought Sookie would make a great vampire, and he still did to some extent, but he didn’t mean like that.
“What happened to you?” he asked, repeating his earlier question.
“I learned to survive,” Sookie answered tiredly. “Life, the supernatural world… I never escaped it, Eric. I tried, oh God, did I try, but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t let me. It didn’t matter how fast or far I ran, it was always there waiting for me when I stopped. I wanted out so many times when I was living in Bon Temps. I didn’t want anything to do with all that vampire crap. I wanted to be left alone, to not be involved with all your vampire politics, but once I was out I wanted back in. I had no idea how much you protected me back then, how dangerous it really is. And no, I didn’t want back in just for your protection, but because I missed it, I missed you, I missed Pam and Bubba. I even missed Thalia. I missed my friends, and that’s what the vampires of Area five were: my friends. I wanted to go home so many times, but I couldn’t.”
“You could. You can,” Eric told her sincerely.
“No, I can’t.”
“No, Eric, you don’t get it,” Sookie cried, cutting him off. “Louisiana, Bon Temps isn’t home for me, you are. But you’re not there anymore. I can’t…couldn’t go back and not be near you. I can’t do that. I couldn’t be so close to you and not be a part of your life.”
“You could be.”
“No, I can’t. I can’t be near you and not be with you. I can’t stand around and watch while you take one woman after another; I just can’t. It nearly killed me hearing it about it from Bill. I couldn’t bear to see it.”
Not for the first time that night, Eric found himself at a loss of what to say. He could hear the pain in Sookie’s voice as she spoke. He always thought he had the worst of it, but as he listened to Sookie speak he knew that wasn’t the case. He had lost Sookie and been forced to marry a woman he despised, but he still had Pam, and his home, and his area vampires, while Sookie had nothing. She had lost everything, Pam, her home, her friends; she had been forced to flee her home, leaving everything behind, just to be safe, which it seemed she wasn’t. He wanted to know what happened to her, but at the same time he didn’t. He didn’t know if he could handle knowing what happened to her if she had been badly hurt. It would kill him knowing he didn’t save her, heal her, protect her.
“I tried to contact you, you know,” Sookie said, suddenly breaking into Eric’s thoughts. “It was about seven years after…when I…” she trailed off as painful old memories overwhelmed her, “I called you, Pam, I even tried Fangtasia, but I kept getting the same message. The number you have called is no longer in service. It was then I finally accepted what I’d been trying to deny for so long. I was on my own again.”
“But that’s not possible,” Eric replied. “None of those numbers have been disconnected. Fangtasia is still open, and I kept the number you have for me just in case you called.”
“But I called them all a dozen times,” Sookie said confused. “Why would I get that message every time if they’re disconnected?”
“I don’t know,” Eric said, grabbing his cell phone and dialing the number for Fangtasia. He listened to it ring a few times before handing the phone to Sookie.
“Fangtasia, the bar with a bite,” Sookie’s brow furrowed as she listened to the familiar greeting on the answering machine. Disconnecting the call, Sookie redialed the number and held the phone out.
“The number you have dialed is not a working number. Please check the number and try again.”
Ending the call, Sookie tossed the phone back to Eric, “What’s going on?”