Chapter 7 – Smitten
Tissue warning – light (may cross over to medium for you)
Frying Pan – I’m pretty sure I’m safe
Just after breakfast there was a knock on Hunter’s door. Sookie exited the bathroom to see who was there. “Can I help you?”
“I have a delivery for Mr. Hunter Stackhouse.”
Hunter clapped his hands in his bed at seeing the big white box with a huge red bow. “That’s me!”
“Well then Mr. Hunter, this box is for you and I have a card for your,” he turned to look at Sookie, “mother I presume?”
“YEP, that’s my mommy. Mommy, come help me with the box.”
Sookie was pretty sure she knew who sent the packages and a quick dip into the delivery man’s mind confirmed it. She also heard something about the auction at her farmhouse, well Furnan’s farmhouse now. That was puzzling, but the man changed thoughts to her breasts and her shields went right up. “Sure honey, manners first though. I’m Sookie Stackhouse and you are?”
“Bobby Burnham. I’m just to ensure these items were delivered. Nice to meet you.”
“And you as well. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll leave you to your day.” He spun around quickly and left.
Sitting on the edge of the bed and pointing to the box, she offered, “So you want help?”
“Yeah, the ribbon’s too tight.”
Sookie needed to borrow scissors from the nurse’s desk and they got the wrapping off the box, then she told him to wait. “We need to read the card.”
“You should read yours first, I won’t listen.”
“Ok.” She unsealed her envelope and pulled out the handwritten note:
I’m very glad that Hunter wrote a letter to me, otherwise I fear we never would have met. Meeting you was more than I had hoped for when I first read Hunter’s letter and I can’t wait for more visits so we can both get to know each other better.
Now, you may be unhappy with receiving a gift as I have purchased for Hunter, but that’s what it is: A gift for Hunter. So please remember that before you react when I see you tonight.
Have an uneventful day at the hospital and enjoy your time with Mrs. Fortenberry.
I look forward to seeing you after sunset.
PS: I forgot to give you my phone number. I enclosed my card and added my personal mobile number. Feel free to call me anytime.
“Ok kid, nothing earth shattering in my letter. Just a reminder that he purchased this gift for you. So go ahead.”
“You won’t make me give it back?”
“Nah, this was your wish. I’ll keep that in mind.” The note was handwritten to Hunter, just as hers had been and she was sure it was Eric’s own handwriting.
This is not exactly a gift as it is a replacement for what you lost yesterday. I did my best to find movies that I think you will like. I also was sure to include Monsters Inc. since we were supposed to watch that last night and I hope you will allow me to watch it with you and your Mommy tonight.
I don’t need to be at work until well after you go to bed, so I look forward to spending some time with you this evening.
Hunter squealed when he took off the lid. MOVIES! More movies than he’d had before. Some were older ones and Sookie had to laugh. She explained she watched them when she was younger. At Hunter’s request, Sookie reviewed the instructions for the new player and plugged it in so it would be charged for his dialysis that afternoon. Next they reviewed each movie that was new to him and he chose one new, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and one familiar film, Cars, for his day. Sookie heard he was sad about not having Tangled, but there was no way Eric could possibly know he liked it. Obviously, princess themed movies were avoided given his gender. Hunter hadn’t been this excited about anything for a long time. Every nurse and orderly who stepped into the room was told about his new friend Eric and the movies he’d sent. It was a really good morning, the best they’d had in a while. Hunter’s mood brightened the whole floor too, as frequently happened in a pediatric ward. Johnny and Grady stopped by and they wanted to meet Eric, so they arranged with some folks to have an after dinner visit in the playroom while Eric was at the hospital that night. One of Hunter’s nurses ensured they would procure the special wheel chair for the event.
Shortly after lunch, Hunter headed to dialysis with his new DVD player and movies in hand and Sookie headed for her usual visit to Maxine’s.
“What’s got you singin’ in the kitchen Sookie?”
“Maxine, I sing in your kitchen all the time.”
“You do when you think I’m asleep and you’ve turned on your music. Something’s got ya so happy you’re just singin’ on your own in there.”
Sookie joined Maxine in the living room and braced herself. Keeping the fact that Eric had visited and that he was a vampire wasn’t something she could do with Maxine. Hunter would spill it the next time he saw her. “Well, you know Hunter made a wish from the Make a Wish group?”
“Oooooo what is it? Tell me, is it all planned?”
“Well, it’s not what any of us thought or even considered and it’s in progress.”
“Now I’m really curious. Tell me.”
Sookie went on to explain Hunter’s wish, the letter and the surprise visitor they had last night at the hospital. To say Maxine was curious was an understatement. She exclaimed ‘oh my’, ‘goodness me’, ‘he didn’t’, and ‘how tall’ throughout the tale. So far, the story was easy to tell and Sookie knew Maxine was excited for her (she was listening to be sure, something she didn’t do often). Now was the hard part. “The thing is, Maxine . . . you see . . . ah, Eric is a vampire.”
Maxine was silent at that revelation. Personally, she was curious about vampires and a little scared. When she thought about it, she knew her friend and Sookie’s grandmother, Adele, would be fascinated and accepting. To be open and more like Adele was a promise she’d made to her friend when they buried her. Right now was her chance to follow-through. She smiled genuinely and responded to Sookie’s comment. “I don’t see how that matters. He seems like a good enough fella to me. Already replaced Hunter’s stolen property too. I think you should allow him to visit as often as he wants.”
Releasing the breath she was holding while waiting for Maxine, Sookie added, “The best part is – I can’t hear him. His thoughts are silent!”
“Well then it seems you were made for each other. Cain’t wait to meet him maself.”
Sookie was astonished that Maxine was so accepting and she even said as much. That turned into a discussion about how Maxine was trying to be a better person and more like Adele in respect for her memory. They shed a few tears as they discussed Adele and Maxine assured Sookie that her Gran would have been proud of her for taking care of Hunter as she’d been doing. Finally, Sookie ended the hug fest as she called it, so she could get shepherd pie: The dialysis version, in the oven.
In addition to his usual message from Bobby, Eric had a voicemail from Sookie when he rose; thanking him for his thoughtfulness and expressing how excited she was to see him again. Hearing her voice put a smile on his face and he was happy she’d agreed to see him again tonight; he only needed the sun to set and he’d be on his way. While he waited he got ready for the evening then did some work.
The first order of business was the voicemail on Sookie’s farmhouse so he followed up with his dayman. Bobby’s message was that Furnan Developers had filed for and received permission to demolish the farmhouse on the property; they weren’t keeping the structure as was originally planned. The news was suspicious since the filing AND the approval all happened that very day, almost like someone had been bribed to rush through the approval process. When Eric told Bobby to call his lawyer, Desmond Cataliades, to fight the ruling, Bobby surprised him by saying he’d already called the lawyer as a head’s up and he only needed to call again to confirm the need for legal action. Bobby had even contacted the Bon Temps historical society to inform them of Furnan’s plans and that he would be available to assist them. Eric was impressed; he’d gone from screw-up to competent in days. He wondered if his child really had pulled Bobby into too many directions, thereby preventing him from getting his work done adequately. He spent a moment pondering whether to tell Sookie or not about Furnan’s plans and decided not to tell her. He hoped they could stop the wrecking ball.
With about 30 minutes ‘til sunset, he reviewed emails from his businesses and called Pam to remind her that the Sheriff meetings for the night would be starting at 1AM and that YES her attendance was required. With the unpleasantness done and the sun out of the sky, he headed to the hospital; making a planned stop on the way.
As he approached the door, Sookie was cleaning up Hunter’s dinner tray and when she looked up, she greeted him with a smile that lit up the room. If his heart beat, it would speed up just as he heard hers doing right now. As it was, he could feel a tightening in his chest at her smile. That combined with Hunter’s excitement at his arrival had him matching their grins. “Good evening. How was your day?”
“Hi Eric. We had a great day; somebody sent us some really cool stuff. Isn’t that right baby?”
“YEAH! Thanks for the movies and the player.”
“My pleasure. I have something for Sookie tonight as well.”
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “This was Hunter’s wish, not mine.”
“Oh, so should I give this Caramel Java Chiller to one of the nurses at the desk?”
If it was possible, her face lit up even more, though she quickly sent an accusatory look at her son. “No freakin’ way, pass that baby over here please.” She held her hand out and shook it like a child would to hurry up the delivery. He laughed at her enthusiasm and winked at Hunter. “Oh, I already got that he put you up to this but a surprise like this, “she wiggled her cup in the air, “I can handle, and it’s still early enough tonight that I can drink it. Thank you very much”
Clearly confused, Eric asked, “I don’t understand.”
“This is loaded with caffeine, I can’t drink this then expect to sleep anytime soon, but since it’s not even 7PM, I can still enjoy it.”
He tucked that information away in case he ever arrived later in the evening. “Good to know.” Eric opened his mouth to continue when they heard someone right outside the door call to Hunter.
Hunter smiled. “Gramma, is that you?”
She entered the room and beamed at her grandbaby. “It sure is.”
Sookie was concerned at her unplanned arrival. “Is everything OK Maxine, where’s Hoyt?”
“No Hoyt tonight.”
“You shouldn’t be driving at night, we’ve discussed . . . “
“Hang on there little girl. I didn’t drive. First, introduce me to your friend, please.”
Southern manners kicked in immediately. “Of course. Mr. Eric Northman, may I present Maxine Fortenberry, adopted grandmother to Hunter and me.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you in person Mrs. Fortenberry.”
“Eric. Remember I said to call me Maxine, please.”
“Of course. Your trip here was without problems?”
“How could a woman have problems in a limousine Eric?”
At first, Sookie thought she was just introducing the two, but now it was apparent something was up. “Would either of you mind explaining what’s going on?”
“Eric sent a limo to drive me to the hospital tonight. He called me after he woke to arrange it himself.”
“That part I got.”
“I’ll explain, but first let’s get Maxine into a seat so she can say hi Hunter.” Maxine immediately did the kissing thing with Hunter making him giggle and call her goofy Gramma as he usually did. With that taken care of, he moved to the other side of the bed, next to Sookie, to tell her his plan. “I was hoping after we watched a movie as I had promised Hunter, that you would be willing to take a drive with me this evening.”
“YAY!” Hunter yelled. “Is this your date?”
His head shook before he answered, “No Hunter, I have something to show your mother but this is not the date.” Sookie was still quiet so he continued. “I had Maxine driven here in case you did decide to go for the drive, but it’s not a bribe or anything, we can just do the movie as planned. It’s not a problem to have Maxine some other night. I know you don’t like to leave.”
“Mommy, I’m fine with Gramma. Like Eric said, I know you don’t like to leave me, but you deserve some fun too. Wait. Eric, this is for fun, right?”
Eric was unsure how to answer since he hoped Sookie would like what he had to show her, but it may be hard for her, not necessarily fun. He decided on vague. “I certainly hope your mother likes what I have planned.”
“You two are impossible! I’m right here while you’re both having a conversation about me, and fine, we’ll go. But instead of a movie, Hunter was hoping you would meet his friends from the hospital tonight. We planned time in the playroom for this evening. He’ll likely be worn out from that and be asleep before we even leave.”
“Well then, the playroom it is. What do we need to do to get there?”
“I’ll tell Nancy, she’s working tonight. We need a special wheel chair from a different floor.”
Before she left the room, Reverend Collins from her church in Bon Temps walked in the room. “Oh, you have a full house Sookie. I won’t stay long. I just wanted to update you on yesterday’s bake sale while I was in visiting another church member.”
“OH! Who’s here?”
“Ted Brumbly. He’ll be fine. He’s being released tomorrow.”
“That’s good. Reverend Collins, this is my friend Eric Northman. Eric, this is the Reverend from our Church, Reverend Collins.”
They exchanged pleased to meets you’s and the Reverend didn’t even flinch when he shook Eric’s hand and realized he was a vampire. Instead, he happily handed Sookie a bank receipt. “Sookie, yesterday’s bake sale was a hum dinger. We sold out and earned over $10,000.”
She turned and narrowed her eyes at Eric. “WHAT? I wasn’t there, obviously.”
“Did you send someone?”
“I did not ask anyone to go to your bake sale, but I’m sure I know who did.” He turned to the Reverend. “Was a very large man on a Harley at the bake sale yesterday? Long, dark hair?”
“Yes, and he had a difficult time with the cupcakes he bought and the bike, so he just stood there and ate them before he left. The man bought four of them and paid $2,500 a piece. Handed. Me. Cash. I took the money right to the bank for you this morning.”
“Sookie, I promise you, he did that on his own. He’s my . . . ah investigator and he was also looking for ways to help you. Let him have this, please.” She nodded to him.
The Reverend spoke again. “Well, I do need to get going, just wanted to stop by with the good news.”
“Thank you Reverend.” She stood to head out. “I’ll go get Nancy now for the chair.”
“Very well, while you arrange that, I need to retrieve something from my car.”
“Oh! Can you grab my guitar from my car while you’re out there?”
Eric contained his smirk and simply said yes as she handed him her keys. When he returned to the room, Hunter’s wheel chair was just being delivered. Before moving the boy, the nurse had some adjustments to make to his traveling monitors so Eric handed Sookie her guitar. “What’s this?”
“It’s a backpack guitar. Same sound, smaller package. It should fit in the closet.”
She was stunned into silence for a moment before she responded. “I can’t accept this.”
“You can. I can’t allow your other guitar to live such an unprotected life. It’s cruel to the instrument. I put your guitar in my car to be kept in a home until you make other arrangements.”
“That’s a unique argument.”
“Is it working?”
“Mommy, what’s the big deal? You let me keep the movies.”
“This is all your wish, not mine.”
“Ok, then I WISH for Eric to shower you with presents.” Nancy chuckled at that one even though she was pretending to ignore the conversation. “Try it out, play something for us in the playroom. Please Mommy? I hate that you need to leave the room so late at night to put the guitar in your car. This is a bad neighborhood.” Eric thought he might pay the boy for his encouragement. He also thought he could take some lessons in manipulation from him as he watched Sookie cave in right before his eyes.
She answered through gritted teeth. “FINE.”
After Nancy was done, Sookie moved to pick up Hunter but Eric stopped her. “Show me how.”
The cords to his monitors were the biggest issue with moving him, requiring a second person; in this case Nancy moved the cords while Eric lifted Hunter. Eric couldn’t believe how light the boy was, but he kept any comments to himself; other information he knew indicated the boy had a low birth weight to begin with; then his illnesses prevented him from growing as he should. He simply settled him in then started pushing the chair down the hall while Sookie led them. Johnny and Grady were in the playroom with their parents when Hunter, Sookie and Eric walked in. Johnny smiled at Hunter. “He is tall, Hunt.”
“Told ya.” He gestured to Eric, still behind the chair. “Everybody, this is Eric Northman. Eric, this is Johnny and Grady and their parents, the Fillmans and the Morgans.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Mommy, where’s Marjorie?”
“It’s a chemo day for her, and she had an especially bad reaction today, she’s a little too sick to join us.” Nancy had interjected and answered the boy. Hunter also heard that her bad reaction was due to the increase in the chemo since Marjorie wasn’t responding as the doctor’s had hoped. That made him sad for his little purple-haired friend.
Eric could see Hunter deflate at the nurse’s answer and he wanted to move onto something that would distract him. To speak to Hunter directly, he moved from the back of the wheelchair and squatted down. “What do we do first in here?”
“I don’t know about you, but I want to hear that new guitar.” He turned to his Mommy. “Will you play for us?”
“Of course. What’s the request tonight?”
“Eric, what do you want to hear?”
“I have no idea what your Mother knows. You pick for us.”
“Yikes – OK, but I’ve only been working on that one for a short while. Lemme grab the chords.” She moved to the piano in the room and lifted the bench seat that was actually a lid for the storage below. Since she had been working on this song, the music was on top. The music sheets in the bench were all gifts from Hoyt. As he was always picking up the latest sheet music for himself, he bought extras for Sookie.
She fiddled with her finger placement and hummed a moment to herself before she started in on the song. Since she never got to play or practice in private, she was well over an embarrassment from the few mistakes that she did make and the gang in the room applauded for her. “Wow Eric, you were right. It’s a much more compact design and it still sounds great. Thank you again.”
She turned to the group watching her. “OK, now one that everyone can sing.”
“Hey Jude.” Grady requested. He was a huge Beatles fan.
The songs continued for a short while before Sookie announced that she needed a break and it was time for something else. Having enjoyed the concert, Eric was disappointed but understood when Sookie said it was time to move on. Since Hunter had beamed when introducing him to his friends, Eric knew the boy was pleased to be showing him off so he continued to indulge him. Instead of chatting with Sookie while the boys played, Eric sat with Johnny, Hunter and Grady doing a puzzle. The four of them were fascinated at meeting the ancient vampire and he shared some of the tamer stories of his long life. They all wanted him to bring his sword at his next visit but he quickly informed them that the hospital would not allow that. He was pretty sure the parents wouldn’t either. He found himself genuinely enjoying the discussion with the three friends. Hunter, of course, asked him to tell the story about how he discovered his flying ability, which he did. He also added a short demonstration which was really only floating in the air since the room was too small for Eric’s large frame to fly.
While the boys played, Maxine had pulled Sookie aside from her chat with the other parents at one point and told her how happy she was to see Sookie smile – a real smile. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen that smile Sookie. You deserve some happiness. When you guys go out, I don’t want you rushing back for me. You know damn well I can sleep in that chair and the limo driver will see me home safely.” Sookie started to protest and Maxine cut her off. “I have nothing on my plate for tomorrow. You have fun. I can sleep the day away.” With his superior vampire hearing, Eric head the conversation and was thrilled, it was part of the reason for getting her a limo, and he’d hoped they could be out for a while. He knew Sookie needed to sleep, but he wanted to see if she could make it til midnight like they’d done last night.
“Speaking of sleep. . . “ She looked to Hunter. His eyelids were drooping even while trying to keep up with the guys. “I better get him back.”
Eric looked up from the table where they were working and she nodded. “Hunter, we’re going to take you back.”
He wanted to argue, but he was too sleepy. “Ok. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“I can come by for a short while, but I’ll need to work tomorrow at the bar.” He looked at Sookie. “I mean, if that’s OK with you?”
“Sure. Too bad you have to work early.” She even added for good measure.
He was happy to hear that she was enjoying their time together. “Yes, well I have to get the payroll done and added to the Viking Industries payrun.” They’d begun the trek down the hall to Hunter’s room.
“You personally do the payroll?” Sookie was shocked and it showed on her face.
“I shouldn’t, it’s a long story.” He really didn’t want to get into the Pam situation with Sookie tonight, possibly not ever.
“Mommy can do payroll. She does it for Sam.” Hunter added from his chair.
Sookie knew he was meddling again – hoping she could start doing some work for Eric. “Baby, a company owner can’t just have anyone do the payroll. It took Sam three years before he asked for the help. Stop being a nudge.” Maxine giggled at Hunter’s attempts and just patted his hand. Sookie turned to Eric while he pushed the chair to Hunter’s room. “Sam has only a handful of employees, so I do it after the lunch shift on Friday and just write the checks out for Sam to sign. He doesn’t use a service or anything like that.” She was downplaying her role; she actually did most of the book entries for Sam, as many as she could while Hunter was in dialysis. The restaurant was dead after lunch on Friday, so he paid her more than her waitress wage for the bookkeeping work.
Once in the room, Eric test fitted the guitar into Hunter’s mini closet after Sookie told him the lock combination, Maxine settled into the chair by Hunter’s bed and Sookie fussed, getting the boy ready for bed. “Mommy, I’m fine, just go for your drive.”
“I’m allowed to get you ready for bed.”
“I’ve been ready for bed and if you tuck me in any more I won’t be able to move at all while I sleep.”
Eric’s laughter was cut off by Sookie with a stern look. “I’m just making sure you’ll be comfortable.”
Hunter actually rolled his eyes. “Gramma and I will be fine. I’ll be out in a moment and you know it. Just give me a kiss so you can freshen up and get going.” Anyone could see he was more excited about his Mommy getting out for a while than even Sookie was. Well, she was excited but nervous about leaving Hunter at the same time. She did as he said though, kissed him goodnight and headed to the bathroom for a moment.
When she came out she was a bit panicked. “I almost forgot!”
“What Sookie?” Maxine asked, since Hunter was already asleep.
She was nervous and looked at Eric while she bit her lip. He thought perhaps she was going to cancel their outing. “I’m sorry to ask, but can I give the nurse’s desk your cell number?”
“That’s not a problem but don’t they have yours?”
“I don’t have a cell phone. Hoyt is my emergency contact and he always knows my schedule so he can reach me.”
Eric was flabbergasted, but when he thought about it, it made sense. Of course a cell phone would be a luxury she couldn’t afford. Given her reaction about the guitar, he guessed she wouldn’t like the phone with a voice and data plan he would be sending her in the morning, but that was tough. This was a matter of necessity. Instead of commenting, he just put his hand out and said they’d leave his number with the nurses on the way out.
They walked out hand in hand and headed towards Eric’s car. When he led her to a sedan, she was surprised. “Where’s the Vette?” His initial response was to raise an eyebrow, so she added. “You’re pictured with your Corvette in the magazine article. The one with the vanity plate?”
“I thought you might be more comfortable in the sedan.”
She slid into the passenger seat when he opened the door for her. “Yes, well who wouldn’t be comfortable in a Mercedes? Jesus Eric, the seat might put me to sleep before we get out of the parking lot.”
He informed her when he slid into the driver’s seat, “If sleep is what you need, then I’m OK with that. We aren’t going anywhere that can’t wait.” For added measure, he turned on the seat heater and back massager for her.
She could see that he meant those words. “That’s sweet, but I want to see what you’ve got up your sleeve. I doubt it’s something simple or you wouldn’t have delivered Maxine in a limo. Honestly though, if you’re trying to woo me, the seat heater and massager is a good start.”
The seat had warmed up and she moaned from the feeling. He just grinned at her reaction and thought to himself. ‘Some day, I’ll be doing the massaging my Sookie and those moans will be from a different type of pleasure.’ “I’m glad you like my wooing. I’ll strive to up my game.”
He selected a playlist from his iPod and they drove in comfortable silence for a few minutes until Eric asked about something he’d seen in the room earlier. “I noticed you purchased a movie today. I guess I missed a favorite?”
“You never would have guessed it – so don’t beat yourself up. It’s Tangled.”
“I saw that, but it looked like a princess movie. After his comments about Princess Monopoly I stayed away from anything that looked girly.”
“And normally you would be right. Marjorie made him watch that once and he loves it. He identifies with Rapunzel. She’s trapped in a tower; he’s trapped in a dying body.”
He pushed down the sadness he felt over her comments and responded to the movie part only. “You’re right, I never would have guessed it.”
“He’s likely going to pick that one to watch one night with us. He rarely goes two days without it.” She immediately regretted the comment. “I didn’t mean that you have to keep coming, I mean, just in case you do and . . .”
He reached over and grabbed her hand. “You couldn’t keep me away now.” He got the blush he expected when he also lifted her hand to his mouth and placed a kiss there. In addition to the blush, the comments also caused a tear to spill over. “Have I upset you?”
“No. I don’t know how to react to your comment. I’m . . . I mean . . . just thank you. I already really enjoy your company. I just don’t know what I can offer.”
“So we just take it a day at a time.” She nodded and they just returned to holding hands as he drove. An act, he suddenly realized, that wouldn’t be that easy in the manual transmission Vette. They rode only another 5 minutes before he announced they’d arrived at their destination.
Sookie was quite puzzled. “A storage facility. Wow, you really know how to woo a girl – this is upping your game?”
“Oh, I think you’ll like this.”
“What do you have in here?”
“Patience Sookie, patience.” She nodded as he steered towards the larger units in the back; then parked. He was around her side to help her out before her belt buckle was undone.
“LORD, that seat was so warm, it’s made me extra cold out here.”
“Well, I’m not warm myself, but you’re welcome to my jacket.”
“I’m too chilled to argue and my guess is that the storage unit isn’t heated.”
He spoke as he helped her into his jacket. “The units are kept at about 55 degrees, so only slightly warmer than it is out here tonight.” When she turned, he immediately loved seeing her in his jacket, so he told her. “Is it too forward to tell you I think you look good in my jacket?”
“Now you’re doing better on that wooing thing. I knew you had it in you.”
“Only for you Sookie.”
“Wow, even better.” They made it to the door and he used his key to unlock it, but he didn’t open the door. “Are you building the suspense?”
He was taken aback from her comment, he wasn’t building suspense, he was unsure how she would take the fact that he bought everything she owned, especially if she fussed over a $200 guitar. “I am worried you’ll be mad at me when you see what’s in here.”
She cocked her head to the side. “Are there dead bodies in there?”
Since she had laughed when she asked, he answered her with a joking tone. “No, silly. I dispose of the bodies at my gator farm.”
“I’m not going to respond to that comment. What could possibly make me mad?”
“Something I bought for you?” It was a question, not a statement since he was wondering what her reaction would be.
“OK, well I could see why you would be scared. I’m not too good at accepting gifts and if you needed this big of a storage unit, it’s probably a doozy.”
He thought of something that might help. “The quilt.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The quilt. You accepted the quilt from the nurses.”
“I did but how did you know about that?”
“You’ll have that answer in a moment. Just remember, you accepted their gift.”
She grunted. “Humph, I don’t think I’ve ever been this curious about something, ever. Open the damn door.”
He blew out a breath he hadn’t needed to take and did just as she asked and opened the damn door then led her into the unit. Her eyes went wide taking in the contents and suddenly the realization hit her: He’d bought everything from the farmhouse; he was behind the ‘lucky 7’ bidders. EVERYTHING. She reacted in typical Sookie fashion and burst into tears. Luckily Eric was prepared and pulled a hanky from his pocket and he enveloped her in his arms.
Her first question when she could finally speak was “Why? You hadn’t even met us when the auction was held.”
“I was hoping I would like you enough that I did it for you in advance of our in person meeting.”
“I’d do it again.”
“We can’t possibly be that deserving of your attention.”
“You couldn’t be more wrong Sookie. I’m the one undeserving of you.” She cleaned her face with his hanky and looked up at him. He moved his hands from her back to hold her face, and used his thumbs to wipe the few tears that still spilled. “Even knowing I don’t deserve you, I’m still going to come see you. Like I said, you can’t keep me away now. You, Sookie Stackhouse, are getting under my skin.”
“We’re a package deal Eric.”
“I know. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“Far from it, but for you I will show this side. Actually, this side hasn’t existed for years. You bring it out.”
His comment caused a few more tears as she hugged into him again. “I still can’t believe your PI never found out about my crying and the messes it can cause. We’ll have to forgive him though since he paid ten grand for cupcakes.” She giggled at the thought. “I want to meet him.”
“I can arrange that.”
“Do you want to look at your stuff?”
“No, not tonight, I’m a bit overwhelmed.”
“It’s not your fault. I do want to come back here, I just need some time. I’d already said goodbye to all of it, you know.”
“Then it’s a reunion whenever you want. I’ll give you the key.”
“When does it need to be out of here?”
“No time limit.”
“Ok.” She leaned back into the comfort of his arms and they stayed that way while she just scanned her eyes over the room. After a few minutes, she pulled back and said, “Can we just drive for a bit, it’s not even 10; do you have time?”
“Sure. I don’t need to be at Fangtasia until 12:30 or so. My first meeting isn’t until 1AM.”
“I can’t be out that late, I’ll fall over tomorrow. Let’s just go for a short drive.”
He drove for about twenty minutes and after unlocking a gate, he continued up a private road to a lake’s edge. “I thought you’d enjoy the view, it’s a full moon.”
“As long as we don’t run into any special . . . ah wolves tonight.”
“Not on my property.”
“This is yours?”
“Yes, I have a house on the far side, this is the back edge.”
He helped her from the car and they walked closer to the water to stand side by side. One arm was behind her neck, and the other crossed it as he pulled her close to him. She put her arms in the same arrangement, only lower – around his waist. Wrapped together like that, they were silent for a few minutes watching the moonlit ripples on the water before Eric spoke. “I honestly thought we’d be at the warehouse for a while, so I can’t even offer you a blanket, but would you like to sit?”
“I’d love to, the grass is thick and here but it’ll be cold, so I probably won’t last long.”
She was cold already he could tell, so he cursed that he had no body heat to offer her. If anything, like a reptile, he actually absorbed the heat from her. Since she agreed though, he sat first; then guided her between his outstretched legs with her back pressed to his chest. He liked this. He served as a support, and he enjoyed wrapping his arms around her. To his delight, she covered his clasped hands with hers. Since his sense of smell was very acute, he purposely never smelled while in the hospital with her. Now that she’d been out for a while, he leaned in to her neck and breathed in. Heavenly, he’d never encountered a human that smelled this good. He would have to sneak sniffs from her neck whenever he could. He was taking deep breaths from her neck for a while when she spoke and broke him from his aromatherapy.
“Will you tell me a story from your life?”
“Of course, what would you like to hear?”
“My Gran was a Civil War buff, where were you then?”
“Pam and I were staying in Sweden, pretty much laying low. The years before your war were difficult for me because I lost my maker.”
“Oh, I guess you were close to your maker?” The words were like a statement, but she presented it as a question.
He sighed, an unnecessary act for a vampire. He wasn’t sure it was a conversation he wanted to have so soon with her. She felt his hesitation and retracted. “I’m sorry. You said maker questions were rude.”
“No, no. I also told you that you could ask and I opened the door. It’s a difficult relationship and a difficult ending. I’m unsure how to describe it without shocking you or giving you a glimpse of the un-sweet side of me.”
“Then don’t answer. Just tell me about Sweden.”
Eric thought for a moment. He knew a huge amount of information about this woman in his arms, and she knew little of him in comparison. He WAS the one that opened the door – maybe he did that unconsciously to give himself the opening. He dove in. “My maker, Appius, was cruel and abusive. He let me go on my own after almost 300 years but that didn’t remove the control he had over me; makers can forever control their vampire children. Pam and I caught up with him in 1855 in France. He’d met my first child, Karin around 1500 and accepted her. Karin was a fierce fighter. I watched her on the battlefield as a human and was impressed – I hadn’t even realized she was a woman, something she was hiding from her fellow warriors. When she fell and would have died, I changed her. Appius respected my reasons for turning her and her strength. That was not so with Pam. Pam was more like a true child to me. I changed her to save her from an arranged marriage that she didn’t want or deserve. In her early years, I pampered and spoiled her. I did teach her to fight and she’s become fierce like her sister, but that was after she was introduced to Appius. When he met her, he felt she was unworthy of being a vampire and while I tried discussing her merits and my desire to keep her, I realized he was going to order me to kill her.
Sookie gasped. “That’s horrible. What right did he have?”
“As my maker, he had every right but I was done being his puppet. I’d spent 300 years living under his sadistic rule. I snapped. I can’t fully explain it either. Normally, a child should never be able to kill their maker and I personally couldn’t do it, but I had to try something. It was close to dawn and my Were guards had arrived at the house. I purposely started an argument with him so the guards would hear. Essentially, he wanted me to wait for Pam to rise the next night; then kill her slowly while he watched. I wasn’t sure if my guards would help me – but they did. After hearing my screams to Appius wishing I could kill him and literally begging him for Pam’s life, they knew I wanted Pam saved.” He kept to himself that the Weres also heard other things between Appius and himself that night and other nights – things he didn’t want to speak of ever again. Since they’d heard what a cruel and sadistic vampire Appius was and that Eric wasn’t a willing participant – they got the hint. “They killed Appius’ own Were guard, removed Pam and me from the building, hid us elsewhere, staked Appius and then set the house on fire. They were rewarded handsomely for their loyalty. Several Were in my current employ are descendents of that original family.” While they were talking, he’d created a lap for her and turned her sideways so they could see each other better. “I’m glad I was able to save my child but even as much as I hated Appius I struggled with the realization that I technically killed him. The maker child bond isn’t something I can adequately describe.”
“What a difficult position he put you in.” He nodded. “I’m glad you decided to save Pam.”
“Well, she’s frustrating me greatly lately, but yes I would do it again.” She leaned sideways resting her head against his chest. “Thank you for listening. You know, only Pam knows what happened.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“I appreciate that but that’s not what I meant. I just found it easy to tell you. I can’t explain it.”
“I know, I feel very comfortable with you and I can’t explain it either.” He pulled her closer with his arms tightly wound around her. Within a few minutes, she started shivering so he moved to stand lifting her as he did.
“I’m sorry you’re so cold. I’ll keep something in the car in case we ever get the chance to do this again.” In his head he vowed to fatten her up – she was just skin and bones, no wonder she was so cold.
“I asked for the drive, it’s not your fault but I’ll give you one of Gran’s quilts for your car just in case.”
“I can’t believe we didn’t think about that while we were at the warehouse. You were already cold then.” He rubbed her shoulders hoping it would help somewhat. “I guess I should take you back.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I don’t want to.” He really didn’t, but he eased her into the car anyway. He was so mad at the weather and his lack of forethought to provide her something to keep her warm.
With the heat blowing from the vents and permeating the seats, Sookie warmed quickly so she suggested that he take the long way back to the hospital. He agreed, of course.
“Sookie, can I ask you about your brother?”
“What would you like to know about the manwhore of Bon Temps?”
“Why does he hate you so much?”
“It started when my parents died.” She shook her head. “No, actually it was earlier than that. He clearly hated that I was born. He blamed me for their death saying that having a second child, me, put the stress on the marriage that had them driving to a marriage counselor that night.” She left out the problems between her and her mother over her telepathy. That information would come later. “Pretty much my whole childhood he tormented me. Later, he was jealous that I got to go to college, more specifically, that I got to use the scholarship I was offered when he lost his.”
“The research I found on him indicated he wasn’t that intelligent.”
“He had a football scholarship. Having blown out his knee in his senior year of high school caused him to lose the scholarship since he could no longer play.”
“That’s not your fault though.”
“No, but Jason still hated me for it. The irony is then he hated when I took in Hunter, thereby giving up school. It got worse when the debt started piling up and by the time Gran died, he was ready to disown me. In Jason’s head – Hunter was the reason that Gran had the heart attack that killed her. She was taking care of him while I worked and he was hard work. I can’t say that he’s wrong but Gran would have made the same choice again knowing the outcome.”
“That’s when he got violent.” Her eyes grew wide at his statement. “It’s still on police records even though you didn’t want to prosecute him.”
“Yes, that’s when he got violent. He was pissed that Gran left me the farmhouse, though he got my parent’s house – he seemed to forget that part. Later, when he found out about the deal with Furnan, he came after me again. Sam, my boss at Merlotte’s wanted to kill him – as did many others. I begged them to stand down. I needed to keep the incidents quiet since I having an unstable brother would hurt my chances of adopting Hunter.”
“He’s a loose cannon Sookie.”
“Eric, I know, but I still can’t have that as part of my background for now so I’m leaving it be.” He started to protest but she stopped him. “I know it doesn’t make sense to you but this is how I want to handle the situation.” Eric’s jaw was tense as they spoke and she could tell he wanted to pursue this issue more but she really didn’t want anything to hurt her chances, he just had to understand.
He kept his mouth shut since he knew Jason was already in jail and not a current threat. He’d make sure to track him though, just to be sure.
They returned to the hospital and stopped at the limo in the back of the parking lot to tell the driver Maxine would be out in a moment. The driver acknowledged and said he’d been moving the car to the front doors. They walked into the room, still holding hands, and Sookie gently woke Maxine. Since she’d fallen into a deep sleep, she was confused for a moment but remembered where she was. “Did you have a nice evening?”
“Yes. I’ll tell you all about it on Wednesday.”
“Ok little girl.”
“I’ll walk you out Maxine.” Eric offered.
“Good looks and such a gentleman Sookie. He’s a keeper. That other one only ever growled at me.”
“That’s because you only ever scowled at him.”
“He deserved it. I’ll just be right in the hall while you say goodnight. Hunter is completely asleep I’m sure.” And with a wink she was out the door.
“She’s subtle.” Sookie rolled her eyes.
“No, she’s an excellent ally.”
“What do you mean?”
“She was ensuring that I knew it was OK to do this.” And with those words he bent down for a very chaste goodnight kiss. He only stayed attached to her for a moment, not wanting to outlast the time he figured Maxine had allotted them, but they both felt what seemed like an electric current from their connection. Sookie wondered what a deep kiss with tongue would feel like she enjoyed it so much. When they broke apart, Sookie started to remove his coat and hand it to him. He pushed back. “Keep it; it looks too good on you.”
“Thank you Eric. Oh and thank you for visiting us, all my stuff and mostly for trusting me with your story.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you tomorrow shortly after the sun sets my Sookie.”
“I’m already looking forward to it.”
He started backing away towards the door, still touching whatever part of her he could reach. “Me too.” With one final squeeze of their fingers, they parted.
Before he moved back for another kiss like he wanted, he turned to quickly walk out the door. Waiting as she promised, Maxine was in the hallway. She’d actually taken a seat so he helped her up; then put his elbow out for her. “Charmer.” He laughed while they walked down the hall.
“I have to get in good with you I’m certain.”
“You’ve got that right. Ma boy and I, we’re Sookie’s family.”
“I know. I know about Jason.”
“Do you know he’s in jail for beatin’ some poor man?”
“I do, that man worked for me.”
“Oh Lordy! Is he OK?”
“Yes, I brought in my own doctor; he’s going to be fine.”
She was quiet for a moment. “That ain’t a coincidence, is it?”
“No, but since Sookie said she would tell you about our evening when she sees you on Wednesday, I’ll leave you with no details. To tell you the connection would give away her story and I think she’ll want to tell you where I took her tonight.”
“I’ll wait then.”
“Thank you.” They were quiet until they stepped into the elevator and he asked her, “Can you give me any clues? Favorite treats? Flowers? Foods?”
She smiled that Eric wanted ideas for wooing Sookie and she of course answered to help him. “Lindt chocolate, I don’t know her favorite flower, food? A tie between fried chicken and chocolate covered strawberries.”
He smiled at his ally. “Thank you Maxine.”
They’d reached the limo and the driver opened the door. She turned to him before getting in. “I know you could kill me faster than green grass going through a goose so I cain’t threaten you. Instead, I’m begging you, don’t hurt her and you have to remember they’re together – you can’t want just her.” He wanted to laugh about the grass and the goose, but she was serious.
He helped her into her seat and offered, “I couldn’t hurt her. I’m already smitten Maxine – with both of them.” Truth was, he was practically smitten before he walked through the door and saw her.
She grinned. “Smitten is good.”
Home – Phil Phillips version Writer(s): Greg Holden, Andrew Pearson, Phillip Larue, Paul Moak