A/N – sorry for anyone who saw this, then it disappeared, then came back again. It’s too close to bedtime for me to make it work correctly!
Enjoy – and be sure to find some Christmas music to play while you read!
Chapter 30 – Behind the Bling
Late on the Christmas Eve, Eric and Sookie had closed the door on their company when he turned to her. “Lover?”
“When do we open the presents?”
“It’s not Christmas day and you’re already asking?”
“In twenty minutes it will be Christmas day. I’m asking in case I should place my gifts around the tree and change into my Christmas Day shirt.”
“You mean you have another heart-warming tee shirt in addition to this one?” She looked down and laughed again at the shirt he’d put on for their company.
“You love my tee-shirts and you know it.”
“Yes I do, but I know you’re feeling extra excited right now, and I don’t think it’s about your tee shirt.” He smiled; he couldn’t get away with anything with the bond. “What I can’t figure out it is whether you’re excited to be opening your own presents, or giving me mine.” He opened his mouth to respond, but she kept talking. “In either case, we’ll both need to wait – well I’d like us to wait.”
He almost whined. “For how long?”
“I thought you could take extra blood before the sun rises and we can have a traditional Christmas morning?”
“When will you sleep?”
“Naps here and there, you can wake me before dawn and take the blood?”
He thought about it but only for a moment before he’d agreed. In reality, he didn’t like taking too much of his bonded’s blood but he also couldn’t deny he’d felt an ache from her when they spoke about Christmas traditions a few weeks ago. For Sookie as they grew up, they’d always had a large dinner on Christmas Eve, woke up in the morning to presents then attended church together. The tradition was something she’d wanted so he would oblige her. “Of course Sookie.” He brightened as he thought of one of her surprises. “Will we go to church?”
“I wasn’t going to ask that of you, but you’re smiling about it. Why?”
“I like the people in town; I think it will be fun.”
Sookie was positive there was more to his answer but she let it go. Her bonded was full of excitement and she wasn’t going to spoil his fun.
An hour before sunrise, Eric finished putting his gifts under the tree – and resisted the urge to move the large sheet covering the pile of presents Sookie had wrapped for him. She begged him not to peak when he first saw the sheet and eventually he promised. Now it was time to wake her so they could get moving on Christmas ‘morning’. Once they looked up the local time for Christmas day services, Sookie had to make a compromise in her plans. There was only one church service that would be held after sunrise. They agreed to open one present each, and then head to church. After church, they’d return and open the rest. Eric knew exactly what gift he wanted Sookie to open. He climbed into bed with her and she moved close to him automatically. Knowing she needed more sleep didn’t stop him from waking her. If she missed her Christmas plans, she’d kill him. There would be time for napping later. “Marry Christmas Lover. Time to wake up.” He hoped she was out of it and wouldn’t notice his slip.
No such luck.
“Did you just say Marry or Merry?”
Keeping himself calm, he replied matter-of-factly. “Merry Sookie. Is your hearing alright?”
“I guess.” She rubbed her eyes then sat up quickly. “It’s present time!”
He smiled with her. “IT IS!” After a quick kiss he said, “You should get dressed for church, I’ll be waiting by the tree.”
“I already took a shower; I’ll be there in 10.”
True to her word, Sookie quickly arrived in the living room dressed up for church. “You look lovely Sookie.”
“Well I found this gorgeous outfit hanging in the bathroom. Thank you Eric.”
“I saw that and knew it would be a perfect outfit for your sapphire earrings.”
His excitement was screaming through the bond, as was some nervousness. “Are you alright sweetie?”
“You know I always worry when you open a present. I never know if I’m going to be hugged or beaten.”
She laughed. “I might regret this in a moment but how ‘bout I promise no beatings. Only joy today.”
“I accept that promise. You go first though. What do you want me to open?”
She pulled the sheet back and maneuvered the largest gift out. “This one.”
It was obvious to both of them that the beautiful wrapped gift held a painting but the anticipation of what she’d painted was still there. With flourish, he pulled back a large section of wrap revealing a water color of the Homer spit. The view was identical to the one from her favorite bed swing. “Lover, this is your best work yet. We’ll hang this in whatever becomes our main home so we can always have the memory with us.” He pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you. A piece of art you painted for me is something I truly can’t buy.”
She guffawed. “You are the hardest person to shop for, ever.”
“At least you don’t need to worry about being beaten for your gifts to me.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not that bad.”
“No, you’re not.” He cleared his throat (an unnecessary action for a vampire) and said. “I’ve selected the gift I want you to open.”
She smiled as he pulled her to the couch and when she was seated, he moved to one knee, pulled a ring box from his pocket, and took a deep breath. Sookie’s eyes filled with tears before he opened his mouth.
“I am Vampire, Sookie; a monster. I’ll never be tame or kind or completely truthful. Yet somehow you found the man I’d hidden away. Only you will always have my gentleness, my tenderness, and my honesty. Until you, I spent a thousand years in loneliness. When I thought it was time to end everything, you took my hand and asked to be my friend. Now I ask for your hand and for you to be my wife. Wear my ring, Sookie. Show the world you are willingly mine.”
He took the ring from the box and held it up. “I love you Sookie. Will you marry and pledge to me?”
Through her tears, she answered him. “I will Eric. I love you too and I want to be your wife in both the human and vampire way.”
“Thank you Sookie.” He gently pushed the ring onto her finger and kissed it. “When I described the ring to Pam, she almost took my head off.” Sookie looked at him like he had two heads. “According to Pam, and many others, the ring should be platinum or white gold to best show off the diamond. In this case though, I have something I’d like you to consider as your wedding ring and that is already yellow gold.”
“Eric, I don’t know why you’re explaining about the ring’s metal like you need to apologize. This ring is perfect. The band appears almost delicate, I love it.” She looked down at her hand and smiled. “What do you mean you have something for me to consider about the wedding ring?”
“Sookie.” He paused. “Before my parents died, they both made it clear they wanted me to marry. I scoffed at the idea back then but secretly always wanted a wife. There was one person that knew my true feelings: my grandmother. She passed before my sister Hertha was born, but she spoke to me about marriage when I was fourteen, and I confessed my desires to her before she died two years later. It was her wish that when I married, my wife would wear her ring.” Sookie gasped and Eric stopped telling the story as soon as he felt her shock. “Lover, I understand if you want something new. I felt I owed it to my grandmother to ask.”
“Eric, you misunderstood my feelings. Wearing your grandmother’s ring would be an honor. I’m overwhelmed because in one thousand years, you’ve met many woman – I’ll say no more – and yet you’ve chosen me, ME to wear a ring you’ve kept in memory of your heritage, your culture, and your family. I hope she would have seen me as worthy.”
“She would have loved you. And now, by beautiful bride-to-be, I can’t wait to get to church and show you off as my fiancée.”
“That’s why you were smiling about going to church.”
“You bet.” He stood and helped her up. “Speaking of church, I have to change my shirt then we need to get going.”
“Your shirt is fine.”
“I have something better.”
Eric’s something better was covered by his coat when Sookie saw him again so his surprise shirt would need to wait. Turned out, Eric had more than one surprise. When they walked in, she saw Barry and Thalia (looks like Barry’s blood worked for Thalia and the sun as well). They joined their friends in the pew and a moment later, Jean Keene (the Eagle lady) slid in next to them as well. As soon as she greeted her Homer friend, she turned and mouthed a thank you to Eric. She realized he’d invited the extra friends to the service since Sookie was missing her brother and Bon Temps friends.
Eric had removed his outer coat, but kept his scarf and dress jacket on for the whole service. Sookie wanted to stomp her foot she was so curious about his shirt, but she refrained and tried to pay attention to the service. Finally, the reverend said, “And as we end our service, I remind everyone to join us for some Christmas cheer in the social hall.”
The attendees marched out singing a carol and Eric turned to Sookie. “Let’s go to the social hall.”
“Like you didn’t know about that all along and kept you shirt covered.”
He smirked. “Maybe. It’s amazing what I can get accomplished when you nap.”
As Eric returned from hanging his coat at the door, Thalia was the first one to gasp and grab Sookie’s hand. “You hid this from me during the whole church service?”
“How did you know to look now?” Thalia nodded to Eric’s shirt and both women giggled.
Then Thalia glared at Barry. “Did you know?”
“Ah, since Sookie spent the entire service dreaming about wedding gowns, yeah, I kinda did.”
“BARRY!” Sookie yelled; then she leaned in and whisper-yelled. “Don’t say that I wasn’t paying attention while we’re still here!”
“What’s all the commotion?” Jean joined the group and saw Thalia still holding Sookie’s hand up. “SOOKIE! Let me see that!” Jean’s exclamations started a flood of well wishers and Eric stood with a possessive hold on Sookie, the man proudly behind the bling.
Eric and Sookie returned home from church after being congratulated by their friends in attendance. Patuk and his sister had known Eric was going to propose since they helped with some arrangements for keeping the ring safe when they’d suddenly left for New Orleans, but they still enjoyed the mini-engagement celebration with their Homer friends.
“Thank you Eric. It was a nice surprise to see everyone; I know you arranged it.”
“It was my pleasure, I promise – well maybe not the church part – but sharing our news.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t make you go to church, ‘cept maybe on Christmas.”
“I can handle that. What I can’t handle is waiting to see you open more presents.”
“Let’s get to it then.”
It was no surprise to see they’d purchased new tee-shirts for each other. Additionally, Eric had art supplies for Sookie, and she’d found some new wood carving tools for Eric and a selection of planks, slabs, and large blocks of Bethlehem Olive Wood. Eric hadn’t yet started the boat for launching Godric’s shirt. It might have seemed a risk to give him such a gift on Christmas, but they spoke of Godric often and Sookie was confident Eric could handle the gift. Eric was healing, slowly, and while he knew he wanted to build a small boat to honor his vampire father, he’d said many times he never knew where to start. In the weeks before they went to New Orleans, Sookie did some extensive research on working with wood, specifically wood carvings, and found Olive wood to be a good medium. Eric was pleased with her choice and started designing the boat later that night after Sookie couldn’t fight her exhaustion any longer.
She woke and found him in the office of the house drawing plans. He looked up and laughed. “Why are you covered up so much?”
“I didn’t know where the guards were right now and I have one more gift for you.” She pulled the collar of the large bathrobe over revealing the thin double spaghetti straps of her lingerie.
Without any further discussion, Eric pulled out his phone, hit a button, and spoke. “You’re on patrol duty for the next few hours.” There was a pause. “Very good. Five minutes it is.”
“Should I start a fire in the living room?”
She shook her head. “No. Since we fly out tomorrow, I want to use the porch swing.”
“As my lady wishes.” He ran, scooped her up, and flew up the stairs. Eric heard the front door shut and started pulling on the tie for the robe. “Time for me to open my last present.”
Sometime later, after Eric had fully enjoyed seeing his gift, then enjoyed seeing his gift on the floor; they were lounging in the porch swing when Sookie asked from her position on his chest. “Did you have a Merry Christmas?” Before he answered, she chuckled. “No wait, was it a Marry Christmas?”
“You know, I might be over one thousand years old, but I never asked for anyone’s hand in marriage. It threw me and that slipped out.” He huffed to add his feelings to his comments.
“I think it’s adorable.” She moved to rest next to him, their faces close. “I’ve been thinking.”
She nodded. “More about the wedding. How about we have a Marry New Year.”
“You mean, get married in less than a week?” She nodded. “What about all the planning, showers, guests . . . all that Bridezilla stuff?”
“We’re pledging, right?” He nodded. “We’ll get Pam to go Bridezilla on that. Right now, we have my brother, my Bon Temps friends, Barry, Thalia and Pam at the island for New Years. We just need someone to officiate and Eliane needs to be there. I want Sam too, but I don’t think he’ll leave the bar for New Years Eve.”
“You . . . You’re serious, aren’t you?”
She nodded and added, “Completely.” She rose from the bed and grabbed a tablet from one of the drawers in the room. “We’ll make a list of what we need.”
“Good idea. We need a bride and groom.”
She laughed and kissed him. “Check and check, but I was thinking of the stuff we need to get.” She gasped then exclaimed. “Best Man and Maid of Honor! We have to pick. Since Tara is hiding out still, would you be OK, I mean, would be alright to have . . .”
“What is it Sookie?”
“Can Lala be my Maid of Honor?”
“That’s perfect since I’ll want Pam to stand for me.” He grabbed the pad. “Here, let me help. You’ll need a dress, flowers . . .”
They finished the list quickly and started making calls and sending emails to get the tasks started. Excited to be pulling everything together, they worked into the night and had their wedding planned. “See, no Bridezilla tantrums.”
“Sure, but we have the stop in Orlando for your dress. There’s still time for you to throw a fit.”
Her expression grew serious. “Are you positive you’ll be safe in the plane while I shop?”
“Yes, we’ll each have our Council guards, you’ll have Barry and Eliane is meeting you with Alcide.”
“Alcide’s going to love dress shopping. Oh and they’re actually meeting me there. She’s closer and is going to the Bridal Salon first to start grabbing options.” Her face brightened. “Lala is in charge of decorating, I can’t wait to see the pavilion on the beach.” She continued down her list. “Jason will give me away. Your Bahaman team is handling the food.”
Once they’d both confirmed everything was in place, they packed and headed out to Barry and Thalia’s house to meet up for the drive to the plane. Eric could hear the sounds of something other than packing as they approached the door, but he kept it to himself. Sookie knocked and she heard Barry yell, “Just a minute.”
“I guess they’re packing still.”
“Lover, they aren’t packing now. Hopefully they packed before . . . ah.”
She turned red immediately. “We should go and wait for them at the airport.”
“NO WAY!” As Eric yelled his reply, the door opened and Barry invited them in. He explained that they needed about ten minutes to get ready and didn’t want them waiting out in the cold.
“Can I help you finish something Barry?” Sookie started walking into the house and her eyes zoned in on the apron and dress she’d bought Thalia, in shreds, on the floor of the living room. Though she wanted to close her eyes and run for the car, she couldn’t help looking around. Her friends had apparently role-played out the fifty’s housewife thing: a martini glass was on the table next to a newspaper and before she put up her shields, she knew what had happened from Barry’s head. Her eyes snapped shut like that would stop the image of how Thalia had portrayed her role as doting wife to perfection and Barry had ‘rewarded her’.
“Lover, why are you blushing?” He looked at Barry; then the evidence in the room. Thalia entered the room in time to hear Eric bark out a laugh. “OH! This I’ve got to hear!”
Sookie shook her head emphatically. “No. No you don’t. We’re leaving for the plane so I can stop thinking about it.” She paused for a moment then added. “In fact, you’re going to try glamouring me on the plane since the brain bleach to remove those images doesn’t really exist.”
A/N – Reminder – next weekend is Easter – no guarantees on posting. Got an egg hunt. . .