He landed with a soft thump on the pathway in front of a large stone and slate French Provincial home. The landscaping was lit with soft lights. It was exquisite. She saw Pam’s car in the driveway. “Are you okay?” He asked quietly, his hands running slowly up and down her arms easing her goose bumps.
She nodded. “What was that?”
He was silent for a moment. “I am not exactly sure. After I get you settled here with Pam I am going back to investigate.”
“No!” She stepped forward panic surging through her, grabbing his large hand with her small one. “No, please. Please don’t leave me.”
“Sookie,” he looked into her eyes, his free hand brushing against her cheek. “You are perfectly safe in my home.” He led her up the steps to the front door.
“I don’t feel safe anywhere,” she whispered desperately,” Unless you are with me.” Her eyes implored him.
He sighed from deep in his throat and his gaze tore from hers. “I was with you in your home, and was not able to keep you safe.”
“That’s different, Eric,” she said, squeezing his hand. “You were in your daytime rest. You couldn’t have stopped it.”
He inclined his head. “Never the less, you are safe in my home. It can not be breeched.” He placed his palm against the screen that was below the doorbell. A blue light scanned his print. Once it registered him, a touch screen keypad appeared. He quickly keyed in the code. Once it read, “access granted” he took out his keys and opened the numerous locks on his front door.
“It’s like fort Knox,” she breathed as he opened the fourth and last deadbolt.
He wryly smiled at her. “Better safe than sorry.” He swung open the front door and she was once again taken aback by the grand nature of his home. Her feet were cold on the travertine tiles. The winding staircase on the right that led to the next level had an elegant iron handrail. She swallowed and looked around her. To her left was a glorious formal dining room. In front of her stretched a long walk way.
“What?” He asked as he closed the door behind her, sliding the locks in place. She could see her overnight bag sitting at the bottom of the stairs where Pam must have deposited it.
She shook her head. “Nothing. I am just surprised by your home.”
He raised an eyebrow and smiled again; this time it warmed his eyes.” Why is that, lover?”
“I guess I just expected it to be… darker,” her cheeks flushed as she realized she expected something more like his bar, Fangtasia.
He laughed. “Just because I am vampire does not mean I have bad taste in décor, lover.” He placed his hand at the small of her back and led her through the foyer. “Truth be told, I bought the house furnished. Not all of this is my particular taste. I just haven’t had the time to put into decorating. My day chamber is the only thing I have redone.”
She nodded, taking a look at the high ceilings as she followed him.
“Pam?” He called, his voice echoing through the hallway.
“In the library, Eric,” she responded. Eric turned to his left and led her into a dark wood paneled room. It was impressive. A large wooden desk sat in front of the window. A sitting area was in front of a large fireplace. Pam and Chow were seated with their backs to the fire in two leather chairs. Eric took a seat behind his desk and Sookie stood awkwardly for a moment before she slowly lowered herself to the leather sofa. As she looked around the room, she couldn’t help but be in awe of the elaborate carving of the fireplace and wood walls. It was stunning. Two full walls held leather bound books. She squinted as she read them from her seated position and realized their bindings were lettered with foreign languages.
She sank back in the couch and turned to face Eric, who was seated regally behind his desk, his hands tented in front of him.
“We were nearly stopped as we left Sookie’s,” his voice was even when he finally spoke. Chow’s eyes widened and Pam looked at him sharply.
“By whom?” She asked, her voice ice cold.
“I believe it was human.” He began, swivling his chair to look out the window over his property. It appeared the house was set on several acres. The moon and stars shone through the open curtains.
“A human?” Pam laughed, settling back into her chair. “Surely you could handle a human.”
A cold dread filled Sookie’s body as she leaned forward. “Eric, how could a human have pulled us down like that?”
Pam was on her feet before Sookie realized she had moved. “What?”
Eric’s chair squeaked slightly as he turned back to face them. He looked to Sookie first, then back to Pam. “Yes, the human was incredibly strong. It took all of my strength to kick his grip loose and still keep to the air.” He paused thoughtfully before he continued. “He smelled of death.”
Pam landed with a thump in her chair. Her blonde hair was pinned on top of her head and she had changed out of her bloodied clothes into a pink Juicy Couture sweat suit.
“Death?” Sookie whispered quietly. “I didn’t smell anything.”
He nodded. “I know. The smell was faint, but there.”
Her eyes widened as she put two and two together. “Don’t tell me I have to deal with fucking zombies now? First vampires, then shifters, then Weres, then fairies, then witches—”
Pam snorted. “Nonsense, Sookie. There is no such thing as zombies.” She laughed as if Sookie had asked about the tooth fairy. Chow even managed a fangy smile.
Feeing chagrined, she closed her mouth and looked at Eric. He was appraising her quietly as if weighing what he would say next. “Chow, would you show Sookie to the kitchen? She has not had anything to eat tonight. Show her where everything is and then return.”
She started to protest, feeling like he was trying to shut her out of a very important conversation. “Eric.”
“Sookie, it is quite all right. I need a few moments alone with Pam and Chow.” He stood from his chair and walked around to her. He placed a kiss on her forehead. “I will join you shortly.”
She nodded, knowing she had lost the argument before it even began. Chow showed her down the hall way and they passed several rooms before they reached the back of the house. He turned right and led her into a magnificent kitchen.
“The fridge is fully stocked for you,” he stated, and then motioned between the cupboards. “Plates are there, glasses there, and if you wish to cook the cookware is stored in the butlers pantry, there.” He motioned to an opening to the right of the stove that led into another part of the kitchen. “There are also human snacks in the pantry behind you.” She had never seen a kitchen where the fridge was stored in a separate area and wondered if Eric added it as an after thought.
He tipped his head at her and left. She sighed and pulled open the sub zero fridge realizing she was very thirsty. Chow wasn’t kidding, it was fully stocked. She pulled out a bottle of Fiji water and twisted off the cap, drinking it down in gulps. She peaked in the drawers and saw meats, cheeses, fresh veggies and array of different drinks, dressings, condiments, and yogurts. She opened the freezer to see it was crammed full as well.
She padded over to the pantry and opened the door. The light came on as she stepped inside stretching her neck up to see the shelves. She giggled when she turned to her right and saw that one entire wall of the pantry was literally filled with Girl Scout cookies. Each shelf held a different cookie and she wondered how Eric had been roped into buying so many of them. She grabbed a box of Tagalongs and closed the pantry door. Taking a glass out of the cupboard she poured herself a tall glass of milk.
She sat at the island on one of the stools and munched on her cookies and sipped her milk. Her feet swung restlessly as she waited for Eric to come find her. The time on the microwave read 4 am. As if he sensed her thoughts he suddenly appeared in the doorway and she looked up to see him leaning against the door jam watching her.
“How are you, my lover?” He asked, his blue eyes searching hers.
She shrugged her shoulders as she finished her last bite of cookie and swallowed the remainder of her milk. “Tired.” She got up to put the cookies away but he took them from her hand. “What’s with you and the Girl Scout cookies?” She asked with a smile.
He emerged from the pantry and laughed under his breath. “It appears I am a push over for Girl Scouts.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Those teacup humans in their little uniforms…they know I am an easy sell.”
She laughed, surprised to hear this from him. A big, bad, Viking Vampire was a sucker for little Girl Scouts. “Hmmm… who would have thought?” She continued to giggle as he pulled her in his arms, a mock glare on his face.
“You had better keep this secret to yourself, my love,” he warned with a growl, baring his fangs at her.
“Oh, Mr. Vampire!” She swooned. “Won’t you please buy some of my cookies?” She fluttered her eyelashes and twirled her hair at the end of her finger. She darted out of his grasp and through the kitchen.
He followed her at a human pace as she ran down the hallway, stopping at the stairs where her bag still sat. “Where do you think you are going, little girl?” His voice was low and throaty, his fangs still out.
She stuck out her tongue at him and then threw her bag over her shoulders and slapped her feet up the wooden stairs. She reached the top and jogged down the hallway in the dark, passing numerous doors until she finally stopped. He appeared at the end of the hallway, illuminated by the moon coming in through the large window. She set her bag down next to the hall table and looked at the doors around her. None of them had fancy locks or security.
“Do you not sleep here?” She asked quietly.
He shook his head as he walked towards her. “No, I use the lower level for my day chamber.”
She nodded in understanding, biting her lip. So much had happened today. So much danger and anger and hurt. She was suddenly exhausted, to the point if she didn’t know if she could stand much longer. “Eric?” Her voice was just above a whisper and he reached her just as her knees got weak. He scooped her into his arms, burying his face in her neck and hair, inhaling her scent deeply.
“Come, lover,” he slung her bag over his shoulder and carried her down the hall. “Let’s get you to bed.”
She nodded into his chest and allowed him to carry her back down the stair way and began to descend to another staircase that she had not seen next to the main one. “What’s down here?” She asked curiously as he flicked on the light and she blinked at its sudden brightness.
“My bedroom, a kitchen, living area and a theater.” They passed the kitchen, which she thought looked more like a bar and into the living area. He turned down the hall and nodded his head to the right door. “That is the theater room and this is my bedroom.” He followed similar security steps as he did when they entered the house and his double doors clicked open.
The room was dark, softly lit by mounted directional lights on the charcoal grey walls. It was warm and inviting and when he laid her down gently on the bed, she snuggled into the pillows against the padded leather headboard that spanned the height of the wall, her eyes heavy as she watched him turn the knob on the fireplace at the foot of the bed. He set her bag on the dresser against the wall.
He slipped his jacket off and tossed it over the round chair to the left of the bed. He kicked off his boots. He nodded to her right, which had an open walkway. “The bathroom is through there, if you should need it. I ask that you stay with me here tonight until I wake tomorrow. When I awake tomorrow I will set security for you.”
She nodded and fought back a yawn. “I am going to shut the security door to the day chamber. I will be right back.” He padded out of the room. She slid off the bed and over to her bag to get out a nightgown. She shuffled into the bathroom, once again in awe over the absolute elegance of his house. The bedroom and the bathroom had a very Zen-like feel. The back wall was covered in white shutters, over what appeared to be glass windows, broken up by a large TV that was mounted on the wall over the toiler and bideat. A large glass shower stood on the corner next to the long counter and sink.
A bathtub took up the center of the floor, big enough to fit three of him. She longed to soak in it, but the yawn that stretched her lips apart reminded her of how tired she was. The laminate flooring was cool under her feet and she quickly stripped out of her clothes and slid on her nightgown. She leaned over the white granite counter and sinks and splashed cold water onto her face. She caught Eric’s reflection over her shoulder and she smiled tiredly at him.” Are those real windows?”
He smiled and shook his head. “No, they are computer enhanced. It gives me the illusion of daylight, which I appreciate.” He flicked a switch on the wall and the daylight disappeared, leaving a starry sky peaking through the shutters.
“That’s neat,” she responded sleepily.
“Come, little one, let’s get you to bed.” He led her back to the over sized bed and pulled back the covers for her. She snuggled deep into the bed and he covered her up. He stripped out of his clothes and walked around to his side of the bed, climbing in and pulling her close to him. “On your night table there is a remote for the lights and the TV control, if you should wish to watch TV in here when you awake. You are also free to roam the lower level. The security door is in place and I will open it tomorrow when I rise, so I am afraid you are confined to the downstairs for now.”
She nodded, trailing her fingers over his hard chest. She rested her ear over where his heart would beat, if it still did. Although his body was cold, she never ceased to be amazed how quickly his temperature acclimated to hers, as if the blood that ran through his veins was warm.
He reached behind him and pressed a button, turning down the all ready dim lights, leaving them in darkness save for the light coming from the fire. He kissed her softly on the top of her head.
They lay there quietly. She knew he was not ready for his day rest, but was coming to bed with her to offer her comfort. His fingers stroked through her hair as he hummed softly under his breath.
“What are you singing?” She whispered and he suddenly stopped, as if embarrassed.
He laughed quietly. “I do not know. It’s a familiar tune, somehow, although I do not recall the name. I believe it is a lullaby from my childhood. I can not seem to remember the words.”
She hugged him tighter to her. “I like it, it’s comforting. Don’t stop.”
He continued, his voice rumbling in his chest. Her lids grew heavier and her breathes became deep and slow. As she drifted away, lulled by the sound of his voice, she thought she heard him whisper,” I love you, Sookie.” She was pulled under as the words left his lips.